Traditional Latin Mass Schedule in Memphis
Blessed Sacrament - Sundays 8:30 am
2564 Hale Avenue
Memphis, TN 38112
St. Michael's - Wednesdays 12pm (Noon),
First Fridays 6:15pm,
First Saturdays 7:00am
3863 Summer Avenue
Memphis, TN 38122
St. William's - (None at this time)
4932 Easley Avenue
Millington, TN 38053
For any questions or comments related to this site, please email us at memphisLatin@gmail.com
Last Updated: November 3, 2016
Monday, October 22, 2007
Only in Hollywood: Chance meeting after Mass leads to 'Bella'
By Paula Doyle
The back story of Metanoia Films, opening its first feature film, "Bella," nationwide Oct. 26, could be called The Miracle on Bedford Drive.
That's where former 20th Century Fox entertainment lawyer Leo Severino met Mexican pop singer/telenovela soap opera star Eduardo Verastegui --- outside Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills after attending mid-week Mass in 2004.
Severino, 35, couldn't help but notice Verastegui, 33. Besides being the only other young person at church, he was unabashedly devout, praying after Mass with head bowed and raised hand touching the church's indoor statue of Christ near a side exit.
"I was really moved by that," said Severino, who was struggling to reconcile his Catholic faith and new job responsibilities requiring that he draw up contracts for programs "not exactly what the Blessed Mother would be watching on her television.
"I was going to daily Mass just praying for deliverance and guidance from the Lord. I didn't know it was going to come in the shape of a 6-foot-1-inch, ridiculously good-looking Mexican superstar," said Severino. Not wanting to interrupt Verastegui during his private devotions after Mass, he passed by without saying a word on his way out to the parking lot.
He did the same thing a couple of weeks later, but rolled down his car window to exchange introductions with the mystery man as he walked in front of Severino's car. Even though Severino is the U.S.-born child of Colombian parents, and a fluent Spanish speaker, he didn't recognize the actor because he never watched Spanish television.
It wasn't until he returned to work and looked Verastegui's name up on the Internet that he discovered he had just met the "Brad Pitt of Latin America" --- a former Mexican pop singing sensation and a Spanish soap opera star on the verge of making it big in American films. At this seemingly storied time in this life, however, Verastegui was also at a personal crossroads.
"He had been going through a lot in his life," said Severino. "After 12 years of a career, he found himself empty and broken. He had achieved everything that most people would want: fame, money, power, all the women in the world, selling out soccer stadiums with screaming girls. That sort of thing."
While studying English for a part in the American film, "Chasing Papi," Verastegui was challenged by his tutor, a devout Catholic woman, who asked, "If you love God, why do you still offend him?" It was a defining, "St. Paul-getting- knocked-down-moment," according to Severino.
Soon after, Verastegui went to confession to a priest in Los Angeles, Legionarie of Christ Father Juan Rivas, and started daily Mass attendance. He was thinking about giving up his career and making a mission trip to the jungles of Brazil.
Father Rivas pointed out that Hollywood is an even bigger jungle that needed Verastegui in it. The priest assured the actor that God would send him like-minded people. "When he and I met, it was like two pieces of a puzzle," said Severino.
Stunning family and friends, Severino quit his lucrative corporate job soon after meeting Verastegui, who had already decided to form a film company with award-winning filmmaker, Alejandro Monteverde, 30, a Mexican native and graduate from the University of Texas film school. Severino became a third partner and producer, in charge of business affairs, for the fledgling film company.
In November of 2004, just as their pooled finances began to run out with no investor prospects in sight, the partners were invited by Father Rivas to meet Pope John Paul II. Verastegui bent down to kiss the Holy Father's hand and John Paul II gave them an extended blessing.
Within ten days of returning to Los Angeles, the phone rang. Sean Wolfington, an Internet marketing entrepreneur and financier who had provided some digital marketing assistance to Steve McEveety, a producer of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," had heard about the young Catholic filmmakers while visiting Los Angeles.
The trio took a meeting with Wolfington, who flew them to Philadelphia to meet his uncle/partner Eustace. Impressed with the young men's passion to make movies that entertain, engage and inspire, the Wolfingtons made a commitment to fund Metanoia Films and underwrite its first film project, "Bella," without seeing a script. "It was an incredible leap of faith," said Severino.
Inspired by real-life events, "Bella" tells the story of a group of Spanish-speaking immigrants in New York City who befriend a young struggling pregnant waitress. Verastegui plays the lead character, José, and Emmy Award winner Tammy Blanchard plays the waitress, Nina.
"The life of Nina is based on one of my best friends," said Monteverde, the film's director who wrote "Bella's" first draft in a mix of Spanish and English. "She didn't have a José in her life, so I always wondered, what would happen if a broken soul had somebody to guide her? And that's how I created the film."
"Bella" was shot on a movie budget shoe string compared to most studio films. The movie was filmed in 23 days, with no financial margin for re-takes. "It was like bungie jumping every single day," said Monteverde, whose wife, actress Ali Landry plays "Celia," a young mother in the film. Recently, the Monteverdes welcomed the birth of their first child, Estela, named after Alejandro's grandmother.
Many of "Bella's" characters are based on Alejandro's family and friends in Mexico. José has two brothers in the film, as does Alejandro in real life, and the father's character in the film is modeled on the director's own father. Among the laugh-generating lines in the script was a similar oft-repeated saying by Alejandro's father to his mother: "I always have the last word, and it's 'Whatever you want my love.'"
"There are so many more laughs than we wrote in the script, so many more tears," said Severino, who recently returned from a 16-city trip in 19 days speaking before advance screening audiences in a grass roots campaign to promote the film which won the 2006 Toronto Film Festival People's Choice Award.
The romantic drama about people's capacity for love in the face of unexpected challenges has received endorsements from the U.S. bishops, the Knights of Columbus and pro-life groups around the country. In a letter written on behalf of "Bella" from Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali and San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer, the movie was called "inspiring."
"[Bella] tells how the unconditional love of a friend allows a woman in crisis to make life-affirming choices for herself and her child. As chairs of the Committees for Communications and Pro-Life Activities, we encourage you to promote this movie's life-affirming and hope-filled message," state the prelates.
As the film's Oct. 26 nationwide opening in 32 markets rapidly approaches, Metanoia's producing and marketing team of mostly 20- and 30-something young adults is holding its collective breath. If the film holds its own at the box office, "Bella" is scheduled to expand to additional cities after week two. Plans are for the movie to be released in Mexico in December.
"We're waiting to see what God has in store for us," said Monteverde. "Our hope is that we can make more films like this, because [these movies] bring people to a place of redemption."
A review of "Bella" will appear in The Tidings Oct. 26. For information on where Bella is playing, log on to www.bellathemovie.com.