Russell Shubin

The hotly debated question in politics right now is whether or not Republicans will nominate a pro-life candidate for president. But for those of us who bemoan the lack of healthy entertainment choices, there’s a more immediate question that will be decided not at the ballot box but the box office this coming weekend. That question is: Can a beautifully-crafted film with an equally beautiful life-affirming message make it on the big screen?

The movie at issue is “Bella.” It is a moving work of art that is full of heart. “The film shows there is a time in everyone’s life when a moment will change your life forever and it will never be the same again. If it hasn’t happened to you, it will,” explains Eduardo Verastegui, who plays the lead role of Jose in the film. “It’s a love story that goes beyond romance,” he continues “about a man who had everything. He lost it all but losing it all he found all that matters in life which is family, true love, true friendship and a lot of beautiful things that you will see while watching the film.”

Whether or not it is successful in general release will be decided—to a very significant degree—on opening weekend, beginning this Friday, October 26th. Only with strong opening numbers can the film gain access to the greater number of screens across the country so essential to box office success. And the decision will be made by moviegoers like you and like me. But if the past is an indicator of the future, “little ‘Bella’” as Eduardo affectionately refers to this first project by Metanoia Films, may well make it big.

The sense that something special was happening with this film started to come clear last year when their entry was accepted at the Toronto Film Festival. “The film wasn’t even finished and we sent it to the biggest film festival in the world and our hope was only to get in. We were thinking, could you imagine if we get in?—then we will have the little logo in our poster ‘Official Selection of the Toronto Film Festival,’ and that’s the only thing that we were looking for.”

Eduardo, along with Director Alejandro Monteverde and Producer Leo Severino, could not have been more surprised. Film Festival attendees packed the theatre and gave “Bella” the coveted People’s Choice Award. This puts the film in good company: “Chariots of Fire” (1984), “Life is Beautiful” (1998) and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (2000) were all similarly recognized with the People’s Choice Award—and all went on to win at the Oscars.

Russell Shubin

Russell Shubin is Deputy Director of National News and Public Affairs for Salem Communications