Friday, April 22, 2011

Finding Fatima - Movie Review

This documentary tells the story of Our Lady of Fatima.

On May 13, 1917, three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal, saw a beautiful lady "brighter than the sun, shedding rays of light clearer and stronger than a crystal ball filled with the most sparkling water and pierced by the burning rays of the sun." The lady told them that she would appear on the 13th day of every month afterwards and asked them to pray the rosary every day. Subsequently, the children learned that this woman was an apparition of the Virgin Mary. As promised, Mary appeared every month and told the children that on October 13 there would be a miracle. By this time crowds were flocking to Fatima for the 13th of every month and October saw record numbers gather. By all descriptions the sun "danced" on that day. The children were also told three secrets, two of which they revealed and one which was kept secret until very recent times.

Finding Fatima is actually more of a docu-drama than a straight documentary. It gives the details of the above events using the commentary of various Fatima experts, dramatic reenactments of eye-witness accounts, the testimony of relatives and friends of the seers and descendants of eye witnesses, and scenes from the movie The 13th Day. The story is told in a fairly straight forward manner and those who are interested in the Fatima story will learn about the events, secrets, and the basilica built upon the site.

As a side note, I will mention that, although I am Catholic, I have never felt attracted to the sites of apparitions of Mary. In my view, we've got God with us everywhere. However, I do know that shrines can be very helpful to many and certainly miracles have occurred at them. The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus Christ is the full and final revelation of God so there is no public revelation after him (specifically after the last of the apostles died). This does not preclude private revelation to individuals, of the same sort as happened at Fatima. However the Church urges extreme caution be taken in accepting such revelations. After a revelation has finished occuring, the Church will evaluate it but the most "approval" that would occur is that there would be a statement that nothing objectionable was found. Therefore, we may or may not find such private revelations helpful personally once the Church has declared that there is nothing objectionable, such as Lourdes or Fatima or Our Lady of Guadaloupe. However, we are not required to believe them. That is up to each person to discern. (More details may be found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.) 

Back to the documentary: I learned more about the details of the third secret than I had known before and found the account to match details I already knew. However, I was disappointed that there was a lack of follow-through on some testimony. For example, much is made of the hostile, anti-clerical journalist who witnesses the sun dancing, but he is never mentioned again. We can go to the internet to read his newspaper article detailing that he did, indeed, see the sun dancing but this is the sort of corroborating detail that the documentary should have included.

Likewise, several of the experts allude to "secular" explanations for the miracle of the sun dancing, but we are never told just what those explanations are. It would have strengthened the documentary quality of this piece if such opposing information were included and given context to the experts' refutations.

I was also surprised that there was no mention of Mary's request for the consecration of Russia to her "Immaculate Heart." This has been the source of much speculation over the years and also the source of much controversy. For that very reason, it should have been at least touched upon.

Negative points aside, Finding Fatima is an informative and moving work. I came away with more information than I knew before and with a  desire to pray the rosary more often (as an aside, I go in and out of this meditative form of prayer depending on where I am spiritually and various other factors). It is probably the most informational of the films available and will not disappoint those who want to learn more about Fatima.


  1. so, maybe the best available even if not as good as it could have been.
    I will have to check it out..thanks for the review.

  2. I have to disagree with your review on one point. You mention the fact that a great deal is made of a hostile anti-clerical Journalist, who witnessed the miracle but nothing is mentioned about him or his experiences after the event. In fact the experience of the journalist, Avelino De Almeida – who was the editor of the O Seculo, is expressed through a “dramatised interview” with Almeida, where he relates the story as it appeared in his paper. Also a little later in the film the filmmakers show us a recently discovered postcard written by him to his sister in which he describes seeing “extraordinary things”. Although not perfect, I found this film to be inspiring - a beautifully crafted heartfelt and powerful piece of work. A film about faith made with conviction. I for one hope to see more films from this team.

  3. Ok, that makes sense. Except they didn't make it very clear because neither my husband, daughter, or myself made that connection. But thank you for clearing it up. :-)