Tim Drake: “Hope for Hollywood”

Three years ago I was given what I thought would be a routine assignment by my editors at the National Catholic Register. A little-known film, by the name of Bella had won the People’s Choice Award at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. The rumblings were that the film was pro-family and pro-Hispanic and was about the value of self-sacrificial love. My job was to learn more about the film and its story. Little did I know then how one story would lead to so many others.


My research led me to talk to the principals involved with Bella and to learn the inspiring story of how God had led the director, producer, lead actor, and financier together to produce a little film that could.


Over the next year, the producers struggled to find a distributor because the film defied easy categorization. It was a drama, a love-story of sorts, but without the violence, language, and sexuality that pervades most Hollywood films.


As a journalist, I followed along for the ride, detailing how the film finally found a distributor. My first story led to another about the film’s distribution, another on it’s opening in theaters late last year, and another on the remarkable impact that the film has had on so many lives, and eventually the recently published Ignatius Press coffee-table book Behind Bella.


It’s easy for a movie fan like myself to get discouraged. Every time I look at the films being offered at the local mega-plex, I’m hard-pressed to find one that I can watch with my wife or children. It is slim-pickings. Year after year, the casual observer finds little hope in Hollywood. We wait, like proverbial dogs, for the occasional bone to be tossed out that we can feed upon.


Yet, remarkably, Bella was one among at least four films that came out last year that had a pro-adoption message. Could it be part of a larger trend? The young, we are routinely told, are embracing positions in favor of life far more than the generation that preceded them.


Bella grossed $1.3 million on opening weekend with only 165 screens, earning the second highest per-screen average of any films in theaters that weekend.


Not only that, but the film changed the lives not only of those who made it, but also many who saw it.


“The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life,” wrote Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Saved by Hope.


Nowhere is that so clearly displayed than in the lives of viewers touched by the story in Bella. My book is set up in three acts. The third act is “New Life.” It tells the hopeful stories of how the movie led to new life in so many different ways.


Actress Tammy Blanchard, who plays the lead role of Nina in the film, became pregnant after making the movie.


“I never wanted to have children,” Blanchard said. “I felt it was pointless.”


Yet, her attitude changed after making Bella, especially due to the influence of the young actress, Sophie Nyweide, who played the role of Bella.


“I realized that having a child is about producing more love in the world,” Blanchard said. “That’s what life is about – love and hope.”


Blanchard isn’t alone.


The producers are aware of at least 21 “Bella babies” who were born after their mothers saw the film and decided against abortion. Producer Leo Severino describes the film as an “entertainment ultrasound,” and describes the children as the “living Oscars” who have resulted from the movie. There is nothing more hopeful than new life.


As Christ tells us, there remains faith, hope, and love.


Films like Bella fill us with hope that all is not lost in Hollywood. Individuals, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have the power to breathe new life into that valley of dry bones.



Tim Drake serves as senior writer with the National Catholic Register and is the author of the new book Behind Bella: The Amazing Stories of Bella and the Lives Its Changed. He writes from St. Joseph, Minnesota.


One Response to “Tim Drake: “Hope for Hollywood””

  1. wanee Says:

    I was waiting for a friend at Walmart and decided to check out DVD section and “Bella” caught my eyes. I bought it and watched it with my husband. During the movie I was expecting hollywood film as usual but it never did! It remain dignified should I say? The film “Bella” was so refreshing and so unusual from the movie industries this days. Please, please, we want more of it!

    Thank you so much for your work.

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