Airing on ABC stations beginning October 2 (check local listings), the inspiring life of Servant of God Sister Thea Bowman (1937–1990) is told through photographs, film clips, songs, and commentary by many who knew her in this moving and hope-filled documentary from NewGroup Media and the Diocese of Jackson, Mississippi.
It was during the national outrage over the George Floyd murder in May 2020 that the film’s award-winning writer and producer, Franciscan Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, thought of a powerful way to contribute to racial healing and change in the United States: telling the story of Sister Thea Bowman.
Zielinski recalls that, though there was substantial information online, there existed “no coherent telling of Bowman’s childhood and family in Mississippi, her conversion to Catholicism at age 9, and her decision at age 15 to enter the convent in Wisconsin,” she says. “Nor were the twists and turns of her vocation, her personal growth as a Black woman, preacher, and prophet, her commitment to Franciscan religious life, her clarion call for racial justice and human dignity, or her death from breast cancer at the age of 53.”
This one-hour documentary focuses on Bowman’s love for peace and nonviolence as well as her prophetic love for the Church. Some say that the moment she got all of the US bishops gathered at their semiannual meeting in 1989, a year before she died, to join hands and sing her version of “We Shall Overcome” as “We Will Live in Love” as the first miracle on her way to sainthood.
Sister Thea is one of six Black Americans whose causes for canonization are being considered: Pierre Toussaint, Henriette DeLille, Mother Mary Lange, Julia Greeley, and Augustus Tolton are the others. This film allows the beauty of Thea’s life and spirituality to show the great holiness and authentic joy within our Black Catholic community.
Not yet rated • Racism, intolerance.
Based on true events, Oscar-winning director Ron Howard brings to the screen the compelling 2018 story of the rescue of a Thai boys’ soccer team and their coach, who were stranded in the Tham Luang cave when it became flooded by unexpected rains.
When the team fails to appear for a birthday party, the parents raise the alarm. A team of Royal Thai Navy SEALS is called in but find it impossible to enter the cave. A caver from Britain who lives locally, Vern Unsworth (Lewis Fitz-Gerald), knows the complexity of the cave system and suggests that the governor (Sahajak Boonthanakit) contact the British Cave Rescue Council. The council, in turn, engages Rick Stanton (Viggo Mortensen) and John Volanthen (Colin Farrell), who pack their gear and leave immediately to assist in the rescue.
Meanwhile, a self-taught groundwater management expert, Thai American Thanet Natisri (Nophand Boonyai), leads a team to pump the cave and divert groundwater from the mountain above the cave, potentially flooding the crops of farmers willing to help. While Thirteen Lives, available on Amazon Prime, is ultimately a feel-good story, the film is bolstered by William Nicholson’s script and the claustrophobic cinematography. The narrative is strengthened by showing the resolve of 10,000 experts and volunteers from 18 countries who joined forces with Thai efforts to rescue the boys and their coach. The world came together to do good over a period of a few weeks four years ago. May this film inspire us to do likewise.
Not yet rated, PG-13 • Peril
Through the stories of two young Black mothers who died during or after childbirth, directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee reveal the growing epidemic in America of preventable maternal morbidity among women of color. The film asks why Black mothers are much more likely to die than their White counterparts with the same postpartum symptoms. The single fathers and other family members who are interviewed make important observations about the consequences of the medicalization of childbirth and the production-line birthing industry. They call for upholding midwifery and birthing centers as natural preferences.
Streaming on Hulu, the film makes a statement that tugs at the heart: “When Black mothers die, there is a ripple effect in the family and the community. We call it ‘aftershock.’”
Not yet rated, TV-MA • Racism, injustice, women in labor and distress, mature themes.