Pro-lifers have taken a page out of the Left’s playbook, which states that if you have a message to send to the American people, a picture is worth a thousand words. And for all those who lament the secular messages communicated through movies, music and television, an award-winning film opening next weekend demonstrates the genius of the aphorism: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Bella is the inspirational story of two ordinary people who see their lives converge and turned upside down during a single day in New York City. And in an exclusive interview with Bella’s star, Eduardo Verastegui, I discovered why the film is winning over audiences across the globe.
The story begins when Nina, a young waitress, loses her job just minutes after discovering she is pregnant. Alone and distraught, Nina reluctantly turns for help to Jose, a former soccer star who now works as a chef in the same restaurant. Nina seriously considers getting an abortion (what she refers to as “getting it taken care of”), because, as she insists to Jose, “I can’t have this baby and watch it suffer with me.” What follows is the powerful story of two people whose lives change forever when they realize that it sometimes takes losing it all to appreciate the things that truly matter.
With its life-affirming message, it is easy to understand why Bella is a hit with Christian audiences. But Bella is not meant just for pro-lifers or Christians, but for popular audiences, too, especially, as one of the producers put it, “all the Ninas out there” who might contemplate abortion. According to Verastegui:
“When you put a label on a film, it says that it appeals only to one group of people. But… Bella appeals to everyone. You know, the themes of love and sacrifice and family, the hope for a second chance in life after we’ve made mistakes — those desires are universal. So far we’ve seen that this movie has touched people from all walks of life, because its message is universal. That was our intent.”
To Verastegui and his friends at Metanoia (Greek for “spiritual awakening”) Films, Bella is meant not only to entertain but also to inspire viewers to love and be a light in a world that is often a dark place. Verastegui continued:
“Movies and television have such a powerful impact on our society, especially among young people. We wanted to make a film that has a positive impact and inspires people young and old to do something good for others. It was also important, particularly in the Latino community, that we portrayed a man that can be a role model for kids and show them what it means to take responsibility, put others before yourself, and be a man. I say this because Latinos are so often portrayed in a negative way. But we have such a strong culture of faith and family values. It’s time that we start giving our children strong men and women to look up to in the media. And, of course, our hope is that more couples will consider adopting children, because there is nothing more beautiful.”
There is more to Bella than what one sees on the movie screen, however. Just as inspiring as the film itself is the real life conversion story of the film’s male lead, Eduardo Verastegui. Relatively unknown to American audiences, Verastegui was a music and television star in Latin America when he moved to Miami to follow a burgeoning film career in the U.S. With little knowledge of English, Verastegui hired an English tutor who started to question the way the young actor was living and the roles that he was playing. Verastegui’s tutor introduced him to a priest who challenged him to re-examine his life, prompting Verastegui to rededicate himself to his Catholic faith.
In many ways, Verastegui’s conversion story mirrors the experiences of the character he plays. Verastegui explained:
“We are similar in that we both had everything the world defines as success, but later realized that all the fame and money isn’t what really matters in life. Jose has everything taken away because of a mistake he made. But for me, I realized that what I was doing was a mistake and chose to stop doing it. All the projects I was involved with were perpetuating negative Latino stereotypes, treating women as objects and just poisoning our society in general. And I had no idea, until I had a relationship with Christ.”
Because it has a pro-life, pro-humanity message that challenges the coarsening of the culture that much of the film industry promotes, Bella has been largely spurned by Hollywood. But this doesn’t mean the film doesn’t resonate with popular audiences. In fact, Bella surprised even its director, Alejandro Monteverde, by winning the People’s Choice Award at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, the largest international film festival in the world. The festival’s People’s Choice Award has traditionally been a bellwether indicator for Academy Award success whose previous winners include Hotel Rwanda, Life is Beautiful, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Chariots of Fire.
Despite its success, Bella will open to limited distribution in 31 markets on the weekends of October 26 and November 4. Broader distribution opportunities will be based exclusively on the success of the screenings during the first two weekends. Bella needs your assistance to mobilize your companies, churches, friends and families to buy tickets and fill the theaters. To find out more about what you can do to help spread Bella’s message of hope, please visit www.BellatheMovie.com.
Pro-lifers have made tremendous strides over the last decade by embracing ultrasound and other technologies that have revealed the beauty of human life in all its stages, and thus the devastating reality of abortion. Like an ultrasound, Bella illuminates the beauty of choosing life and learning to love. But don’t take my word for it — find out for yourself. After all, as audiences are discovering, when it comes to changing hearts and minds, a picture can be worth much more than a thousand words.