"It's not a film about Syria's war but about the human condition in times of war." That's how Director Maria Luisa Forenza presents her latest documentary "Mother Fortress".
The Vatican Film Library - in conjunction with the Dicastery for Communication (Vatican News' parent organization), the Pontifical Council for Culture, and the Office for Social Communications of the Italian Bishops' Conference - showcased the documentary at the 22nd edition of the Tertio Millennio Film Fest held in Rome.
Rebirth of Syria
Near Syria's border with Lebanon sits the Monastery of St. Jerome. Surrounded by Al-Qaeda and pockets of the so-called Islamic State, it stands out like water in the desert. Despite being the target of terrorist attacks in 2011, St. Jerome's Monastery welcomes orphans, widows, and refugees, and organizes convoys of ambulances and trucks carrying humanitarian aid.
Mother Agnes, the Abbess, heads up the Monastery, with the help of men and women religious from Lebanon, France, Belgium, Portugal, Chile, Venezuela, and the US state of Colorado.
A story about humanity
Maria Luisa Forenza says her documentary tells of the resilience, vitality, and love for life she discovered among the Syrian people. "Syrians and those who are assisting them carry within themselves a sense of hope, despite facing a true humanitarian disaster in a country where people lack food, housing, and work," she told Vatican News in an interview.
She says "Mother Fortress" recalls the Monastery's history, which was an ancient Roman fortress that became a monastery before being destroyed by the Ottomans in 720, who killed 100 monks. In 1993, the Bishop of Homs entrusted Mother Agnes with rekindling the flames of monastic life from the ruins. "Fortress", Forenza explains, also tells of the strength and courage of the monks and nuns who resisted the throes of Syria's 7-year war.