Many Catholics have never heard of the apparition in Knock, Ireland. The apparition is extraordinarily difficult to film. So why in the world did Campbell Miller, Writer/Producer/Director of EWTN’s new blockbuster film, “Hope: Our Lady of Knock,” choose to dramatize this lesser-known and difficult-to-film apparition?
“I wanted to tell the story of Our Lady, St. Joseph, St. John and the Lamb of God and His Angels who appeared to the Irish people during a time when they needed a message of hope,” says Miller, who is Irish himself and who filmed the docudrama in his native country. “In 1879, the Irish were fighting to get back ownership of their land, which was entirely ruled by the British. There were people still living who remembered the Great Famine 40 years earlier when over 1 million people died and over 1 million emigrated…and a second famine was beginning. The mercy of the apparitions was to give a message of hope. I believe that message is as relevant today as it was back then.”
This must-see 90-minute EWTN original docudrama airs 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, March 18 on EWTN, with encores at 3:30 a.m. ET and 3:30 p.m. ET, Thursday, March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph. But you won’t want to miss Fr. Mitch’s interview with Miller at 8 p.m. ET, the same night, on “EWTN Live.”
Want a preview of the film? On Jan. 29, Miller pre-screened the movie at the Vatican and gave Pope Francis a DVD, which you can purchase for yourself here: http://bit.ly/HopeOurLadyOfKnock. EWTN’s own Joan Lewis was at that pre-screening (read her blog here, http://bit.ly/JoanLewisOnHopeFilm) as was EWTN Vaticano, which interviewed people from Knock who attended the screening, http://bit.ly/VaticanoHopePreview.
To help viewers understand why the Knock apparition is so important to his kinsmen, Miller begins the story in penal times, when the Irish were not allowed to celebrate Mass and anyone caught doing so would be shot. Viewers also witness the devastation caused by the Great Famine, caused when the potato crop was decimated. Much of what was left of the crop was taken out of the country by British landlords. In many cases, the starving Irish farmers and their families were then enticed to emigrate to the United States with false stories about the jobs that would be waiting for them. The landlords were then able to confiscate the farmer’s land.
“I want viewers to get an idea of what must have been going through the minds of the Irish people in 1879 when there was another famine and people must have thought this was all going to happen again,” Miller said. “We dramatize what happened in the famine with the poor to put the apparition in perspective. Then, we dramatize the apparition itself and what actually happened. Throughout the whole sequence you follow a family from the moment of them losing everything, to the heist by the landlord because they can’t pay the rent, to the soup kitchens, to their getting on the famine ship and going to America.”
You can get an idea of how important this film is by the spiritual warfare the cast and crew endured. Miller said his own home was broken into, someone tried to steal the car used for production, there was credit card fraud, Miller lost his assistant directors and makeup artists three times, one of the cast was hospitalized the day before going on the set, one of the wranglers got badly kicked by a horse, and more.
But Miller says: “With all that happened, we still got the movie made because we found that God always supplied. We ended up getting the best Assistant Director, the best makeup artist, and people stepped in with costumes we never thought we would have access to use!”
In fact, Miller says the makeup artist was so good that when the actress portraying Our Lady of Knock walked onto the set, “the place just went silent because she looked exactly like how Our Lady has been depicted in statues and pictures of Knock. It took about 30 seconds before someone said, ‘Guys, we can talk. It’s only Danielle!’”
The apparitions were particularly challenging to film not only because no one speaks, but because they also don’t move.
“That is a photograph,” Miller said. “How do you make that real? We actually shot each of the apparition characters [including a real lamb in a field] in slow motion [and over 15 minutes] to give a bit more realization to it. So there is light movement, which you can’t see with the naked eye, but it gives it a bit more realism than a photograph. There are computer-generated images as well.”
Miller wants people to come away from the film with more than just an understanding of what happened in Ireland, although that is certainly one of the goals. A clue to the message is in the title of the docudrama: Hope.
“God’s help to the Irish people was to give them this sense of hope that things will get better. Look what the Irish people went through: having to fight for their own lands, millions dying and emigrating. They must have hit rock bottom.
“Then, Our Lady appeared. Nothing was said. She came to be with the people. When somebody is going through something, that’s what you do. You sit down with them. You don’t say anything. You’re just there. That’s what Our Lady did.
“Today, worldwide, people are under difficult pressures. When people lose hope, they go through a spiral of addictions. There’s anxiety, depression, and suicide. I want people to take away the message of hope; that things will get better. After all, if you don’t have hope, what do you have?
Come see what Campbell Miller is talking about when “Hope: Our Lady of Knock” airs at 10 p.m. ET, Wednesday, March 18 on EWTN.