Friday, 29 August 2014

The Crusades

Three Templars - filmed at Kenilworth Castle, England
 The Crusades

New Documentary from EWTN to be shown in October

There has been so much discussion regarding the Crusades in recent years, much of it negative particularly on the main stream media, EWTN has decided to make its own documentary. The negativity towards the Crusades has come from many forms of the media, from lavish Hollywood films to documentaries made by major national broadcasters. That the majority of people now believe the crusades were a mistake at best or even the cause of the problems within Islam today – we believe these viewpoints are wrong.  We hope that we have made a documentary that may help people to understand them a little more and further the discussion. For example the word Crusade itself can have a morally possitive meaning, like a crusade of hospital lists or for safer roads etc.

The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem
the place of Jesus burial and resurrection
we had excellent access for filming
even being allowed inside the tomb itself.

            In the first episode we start by looking at the original call to take the cross which was give by Pope Urban II in 1095 at Clermont, France. We look into the reasons why that call was issued. One was that the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I had issued a plea to the Pope for help, as the Seljuk Turks had in the previous few years conquered his lands almost up to the walls of Constantinople. Another was that Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land were being attacked and robbed; some were even being killed. Also remember two thirds of the Christian world had been invaded: these were the Levant, North Africa, Asia Minor and even Iberia. So at some point Christendom had either to make a stand or be subsumed into Islam.

Filming in the Holy Land desert

            EWTN’s The Crusades was filmed in seven countries across Europe and the Holy Land. We managed to interview four leading Crusades historians who gave the historical background and we had a priest theologian who gave us the theological background. Together with filming at many crusading locations we filmed two different crusader re-enactment groups, one in England and the other in Slovakia. The documentary also includes at least eight dramatised sequences, from Pope Urban’s call to Crusade to St Francis meeting and trying to convert Sultan Al-Kamil. The series is in the final stages of post-production with the sound being mixed at this moment at Lux communication in Slovakia.

At Santiago de Compostela we met by chance a hermit friend of cameraman Michal Benko so we got him to play the Apostle St James. St James was a major influence on the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula

            Perhaps it will be surprising to many how many saints are mentioned in our documentary. I can think of at least 10, - or 810 if we count the martyrs of Otranto.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Wales, The Golden Thread of Faith

Documentaries for EWTN on the History of the Catholic Church in Wales,
and The Crusades

A look back at a previous production for EWTN and a look forward to the next.

Michal Benko with his trusty camera on the right, we are in
a mock-Ottoman palace in Acre last summer filming the
Crusades documentary.
It is now over eighteen months since we finished work on Wales the Golden Thread of Faith – The History of the Catholic Church in Wales. But my second documentary for EWTN, The Crusades will not be broadcast until the 8th of October. I often wish that it did not take so long but we are determined to make a high quality series, and I am thankful to EWTN for saying take your time it’s important we get this right. They want this documentary to be right up there in quality and technical terms with the best of Main Stream Media (MSM). We want to try and dispel the myths of the Crusades and tell the truth, a thing that the MSM seems incapable of doing. We may not have the resources of, say, a national broadcaster but we do have the will and I am thankful that I have a very talented team with Marek Polecek as director and Michal Benko Camera/Editor. Our funds come from the generosity of EWTN’s benefactors and supporters, so we are responsible to all those who donate, we always bear this in mind when we are filming; and we use the most cost effective flights and hotels etc.

Director Marek Polacek and myself discussing the next shots
Somewhere in Wales, - Photo by cameraman Michal Benko
For example when filming in Wales we did most of it in one 10 day trip in a campervan around Wales. This meant that the itinerary for locations and interviews had to be carefully planned. Although we did pop back during the following week to interview Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff  at the reconstructed pre-Reformation Church of St Teilo’s at the National Museum of Wales. Archbishop Stack gave an excellent interview and made some very interesting points about Catholic history. Also, later that same day, we filmed at Raglan Castle, the ancient seat of the Marquess of Worcester. He was a Catholic nobleman at the time of the English civil war and like most of the Welsh Catholics declared for King Charles I. Raglan Castle was the last siege of the civil war but once it did fall it was ruined put beyond military use, and became the ruin we see today.

A century earlier the Reformation came to Wales but it was not welcome; there was a sense of let’s just wait it out, Henry VIII can’t live forever. However, after Henry came Edward VI and his protectors were intent on solidifying the Protestant Reformation and imposed the English prayer book. This caused the Cornish Catholics to revolt; they wanted the Mass in Latin and so they marched against their Protestant overlords. They were joined by English Devonshire Catholics but in battles around Exeter they were defeated and in the following months many of the survivors were massacred.

Click here to see a trailer for The Crusades series which will be broadcast on 8th October 2014

Click here to see a trailer for the series Wales, The Golden Thread of Faith

If you are interested a DVD of the series can be purchased from EWTN £12:95 from St Clare Media UK – EWTN or $25 from EWTN USA

The Wales series was a coproduction with the Latin Mass Society and St Clare Media - EWTN

Friday, 15 August 2014

The Christendom Project

There is much misinformation about the history of the Catholic Church these days. We can see that from the Reformation through the Enlightenment to the modern mass media the history of the Catholic Church is a subject that is being mined and exploited for profit, often with false or exaggerated storylines. Diverse elements of the media from Hollywood to secular broadcasters from traditional print to social media do not appear to have a full and well rounded picture of Catholicism. EWTN’s mission is to educate and inform Catholics and non-Catholics on the glories of the Catholic faith in various ways using the media to evangelise and promote the Gospel. The Christendom Project hopes to contribute to this work and help promote a better understanding of the history and culture of the Catholic Church.

The series of documentary films will be based on the below list of topics

1. Catholic historical topics- (Life of a Saint/martyr, history and the development of the Church in different European countries;  Famous  battles, between Christian and Muslim armies;  correcting errors about the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, Bad Popes...)

 2.  Visits to Sanctuaries/ Holy Sites/ Pilgrimage routes-  (History/
 foundation, development, spiritual significance...)

 3.  Sacred Art and Music (Presentation of famous European Catholic
artists, architects, musicians).

 4.  Religious orders-  (Priests, Nuns, Third Orders,

5.  Popular piety-  (Feast day celebrations, Catholic customs,
 confraternities, new movements...)

6.  Feature interviews- (Prominent Catholic religious and lay leaders, intellectual, artist).

Some of the films will be single documentaries some will be mini-series, this will also give me the opportunity to write about fine art in the Christian tradition.

For an idea on this project see trailers for Wales - The Golden Thread of Faith and The Crusades.

 The Crusades is in the final stages of post-production and will be broadcast from the 8 – 11 of October 2014.

First post in honour of Our Lady Queen of Christendom on the Feast of the Assumption