Two Films that Created Controversy in MTIFF 2003

From Agency reports – KOLKATA, AUGUST 3 (2003): Conceding the demand of the Missionaries of Charity (MC), the core committee formed by the Archdiocese of Calcutta to oversee celebrations here of Mother Teresa’s beatification has decided to withdraw Hell’s Angel, the controversial film on the Mother’s life by Christopher Hitchens, from a film festival on her on November 1.
The decision was taken by the core committee at its meeting here yesterday. ‘‘The committee did well to drop the documentary for an occasion meant to pay tribute to the Mother,’’ Sunita Kumar, MC spokesperson told The Indian Express.
The MC, however, has agreed to the exhibition of another film that it had objected to earlier — In the Name of God’s Poor — based on the Mother’s life by Dominique Lapierre. Geraldine Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin, played Mother Teresa in the film.
Produced by ITV Channel 4, the documentary Hell’s Angel had created worldwide controversy because of its depiction of the ‘‘fallibilities’’ of the Mother, like her mingling with Haitian dictator Duvalier and her unquestioning acceptance of funds from alleged swindlers like Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings and Loans.
‘‘But it wasn’t the Mother’s business to know how one donated funds and from which source,’’ says Kumar, an old associate of the Mother.
The MC’s objection to In the Name of God’s Poor has been that its script had not been approved by the Mother. When the Mother was alive, she had joined issue with Lapierre on the matter in a series of statements and counter-statements.
‘‘The Mother raised objection because Lapierre didn’t show the manuscript to her,’’ says Kumar.
Interestingly, Fr Gaston Roberge, a Jesuit priest and founder of the order’s Mass Communication Centre Chitrabani here, says the Mother had cleared the manuscript. The festival is the first such event in the history of the Roman Catholic Church dedicated to a beatified candidate for sainthood.
In a letter dated July 20, Bishop Salvadore Lobo, the Episcopal delegate at the Diocesan inquiry team for the cause of Mother Teresa’s sainthood, had requested Archbishop of Calcutta Lucas Sircar to have In the Name of God’s Poor and Hell’s Angel excluded from the festival.
‘‘Both films have been controversial,’’ Bishop Lobo wrote.
‘‘Both depict the Mother and her works in a distorted way.’’
Following the letter from Bishop Lobo and a similar letter from MC Superior-General Sr Nirmala, the Archbishop saw the two films and said he did not find anything objectionable in them.
Sr. Prema MC, the current Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity saw the film “In the Name of God’s Poor” recently (2010) and expressed her happiness on seeing it…. Thanks to the efforts of the film theory guru Fr Gaston Roberge SJ of Kolkata.

On Wednesday 29th of December 1982, Mother Teresa signed an agreement saying:
I, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, hereby grant to Mr and Mrs Dominique Lapierre, residing 26 Avenue Kléber, Paris, France, the exclusive permission to undertake a motion picture which will portray my life and the work of the Missionaries of Charity, in the service of God’s poor.
This permission applies to all forms of cinematographic, theatrical, radio and audio-visual expressions, including theatre feature films, television, video films, etc.
Mr and Mrs Dominique Lapierre will be free to conceive, write, produce and direct their motion picture in the manner they choose, as long as their work will serve the cause of the poorest of the poor.
Signed in Calcutta, on the day Wednesday December 29, 1982
M. Teresa mc

Witness n°1 A. Roussel, Sister M. Fabienne, M.C.
Witness n°2 Father Camille Bouchez

On 13th October, 1988, in Calcutta, Mother Teresa signed the following letter:
Dear Dominique Lapierre,
With further reference to my letter of 9th August, 1988, I have read the script that you have given me and I hereby stand by the authorization I had given you on 29th December, 1982.
I know that you intended by this film to make it for ‘the greater glory of God and the good of the people’ and I am sure it will be for the cause of the poorest of the poor, whom we serve.
God bless you
M. Teresa m c

MTIFF Curtain Raiser Film Shelved
The only Mother Teresa film dubbed in nine Indian languages including Bengali is a 16 mins production put together from a rich collection of rare Mother Teresa slides by Nitika Don Bosco Kolkata. The film “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta” a 2003 production depicts her labour of love for the poorest of the poor. The film was a curtain raiser at both MTIFF 2003 Kolkata and Berhampore 2007. The film’s English language version also features Kolkata’s singing sensation Usha Uthup’s tribute song (blues genre) to Kolkata’s Maa (Mother Teresa).


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Filed under Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa, MTIFF 2010

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