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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A trio of Catholic Hollywood filmmakers committed to bringing one of Christianity's greatest mysteries to the big screen are calling on the faithful to help carry the project over the finish line.
Catholic laymen Angelo Libutti, Ray Grijalba and Austin Kelly have joined forces in an all-or-nothing drive to produce — and crowdfund — a Hollywood-style documentary about eucharistic miracles to be released in 2021. The film builds on the work of Bl. Carlo Acutis, who was beatified last year in Assisi. During his short life, the Italian teen created a multi-dimensional website honoring the many miracles of the Holy Eucharist throughout the centuries and across the world.
Popular author Fr. Donald Calloway, who heard about the upcoming film, explained to Church Militant on Tuesday why he thinks the film is important, especially now:
A film on eucharistic miracles is exactly what the Church and the world needs today. In 2019, a study was done that revealed that 69% of Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. This is absolutely shocking! It's a catechetical disaster. What is needed to restore belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament is a powerful film, a visual experience, that will re-evangelize Catholics about the truth of this central teaching of Christianity and, at the same time, convert non-Catholics to the source and summit of Christianity, the Eucharist! I could not be more excited for this project!
Libutti — a storyboard artist, part of multiple Oscar-winning teams, and the film's director — had previously explained to Church Militant how the project started.
He said he saw a video last year about medical doctors verifying eucharistic miracles on Grijalba's YouTube page, The Joy of the Faith. He said he was immediately so convinced the message was important to bring to the big screen that he contacted Grijalba. One thing led to another, including bringing in Kelly, CEO of Christian Channel, and their project was launched.
On Tuesday, Libutti brought Church Militant up to speed on the latest regarding movie production.
"At present, we're working on the re-enactment of the Bible passages where Jesus teaches about the Eucharist," he says, "The script is based on the Vulgate version of the Douay-Rheims Bible and is being supplemented with St. Thomas Aquinas' commentary on the gospels (Catena Aurea) and Venerable Fulton Sheen's The Life of Christ."
References to the writing of the ancient Church Fathers as well as the mystical recollections of the Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich — a main source for Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ — are also being used, he added.
Libutti teased about today's prominent Catholic celebrities, medical professionals and even clerics who will be part of the film but whose names, for legal reasons, he's not able to reveal at this point.
"But there will be major Catholic players in this film," he confirms, "a multitude of speakers who can reach out to the different personalities of the viewing audience to bring them closer to the Eucharist."
Libutti is also not yet revealing the name of the actor who will play Jesus — but he says he is "a great fit due to his true love for the Catholic faith — and his manliness that will fit Jesus' job as carpenter."
Despite the enthusiasm the film is generating among the faithful, Libutti enumerated "some of the spiritual and diabolical attacks" his team have encountered:
This is not to say the project is being defeated; in fact, it's been besieged by blessings.
Libutti also affirmed the help his team is receiving from God and the saints to counter the evil attacks — and to strengthen them from backlash they are sure to receive for working on a Christian film in Hollywood.
"God is omnipresent, and those who gave their life to Him on earth and are now saints in Heaven are present here for us and helping us in this project," he proclaims.
"Every time we have problems with technical stuff, Bl. Carlo Acutis and St. Padre Pio have come to the rescue, as has Our Lady and St Joseph," he marvels. "They loved Christ before us, and this is their movie too."
The director is also surprised by the joy of people "coming from nowhere, offering their time at no cost just because they had been blessed by the Holy Eucharist."
"This is definitely not just our movie — it is Christ's movie," he adds.
Something Libutti says "still puts tears of joy" occurred recently:
When we went to looking for wood in the forest land of a friend [to use] for props, we found something we didn't expect to find, but something we definitely needed — big beams of pine wood already cut and of perfect length for the cross of Jesus and the crosses for the two thieves.
The joy in our faces was hard to describe.
Surely, God is awesome!
Throughout the challenges, "we keep in mind what a good priest friend told me: "If there were no obstacles, then is when you should start to worry, because it would show that you are not producing something that goes against Christ's enemy."
"This movie is for all people, those who don't believe or for those Catholics who went astray due to poor catechesis, or for atheists and nonbelievers," Libutti re-confirmed to Church Militant. "We need to bring back the prodigal sons and daughters to their real father — God."
It's a big task, and that's why we need the strong believers to support us. It's a work that cannot be done by the Church hierarchy or with the Church involved because they've lost touch with what the laypeople need. They don't recognize their sheep anymore or their needs and are feeding them dry grass — in areas surrounded by wolves.
The trio is asking the faithful to contribute to the film at any level they are able — each level with specific perks listed on the website. Libutti suggests that family members could combine funds to contribute at the $1,000 level, which would result in the family being listed among the credits.
And if anyone wants to contribute at the $40,000–$50,000 level "for any of the big Hollywood actors we could hire," we will be more than happy to add their name to the credits as "producers," he explains.
He reminds potential donors that Grijalba, Kelly and he are working on the leanest budget.
"But we need the help of donors," Libutti says, noting "all expenses will be posted on the website to provide a transparent workflow of expenses as soon we finish with the budget."
The filmmakers ask potential donors to bear in mind the hundreds of millions it costs to make and distribute Hollywood films that promote immorality and engender chaos as they consider a donation to the Eucharistic Miracles film.
The big way to bring this project to completion is to donate at the crowdfunding site.
"But if the faithful have land close to a river for filming, an old-looking boat that looks like it is from Jesus' time or winery land for filming Jesus on the road to Emmaus, remember this is your movie too," he says. "For such donations, contact ChristianChannelStudios@gmail.com."
Keeping his eyes not only on this life but on the next, Libutti instructs: "We give what we have for our King, and we will soon be able to show off to the heavenly saints and angels when we will meet one day, what we created on earth."