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PBS to Air Movie about St. Francis on Dec. 26

A scene from “The Sultan and the Saint” (Photo courtesy of Unity Productions Foundation)

A film about St. Francis of Assisi that has been shown at more than 100 places around the country will be televised nationally later this month. “The Sultan and the Saint,” which relates the encounter of Francis and Sultan Al-Malik al-Kamil of Egypt, will be broadcast by PBS on Dec. 26.

The friars of San Damiano Friary in Orlando, Fla., are hosting a viewing party that Tuesday evening as a way to give community members a chance to learn more about not only Francis but also Franciscan spirituality.

“We think this will be a fun way to watch the movie and, of course, a way to get people interested in the life of St. Francis,” said Steven Pavignano, OFM, guardian. “The historically accurate action of the Sultan at the ending of film is very important. No spoiler alert except – among peacemakers there need not be devastation.”

Todd Carpenter, OFM, pastor of St. Joseph and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, where the event is being held, said the movie was “very well done. It helps us see a different perspective. We’re trying here to bring people together and to create unity.”

“The movie is a great expression of unity,” he added. “It shows that Francis and the sultan became friendly.”

This docudrama is “a wonderful opportunity for Franciscan-hearted people to learn about a part of our tradition and about how to best respond to the challenges of today – being peacemakers and responding to prejudice,” said Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md. “It is not only about the past. It helps us understand the present. It opens the door toward a preferred future in the relations between Christians and Muslims that God wants for all of us.”

Information about how to plan a viewing party can be found on the website of the Franciscan Action Network, the nearly 10-year-old organization comprising members from throughout the Franciscan family who work toward social justice.

Last month, FAN honored the producer of “The Sultan and the Saint” at its annual Cardinal McCarrick Award event, held at St. Francis Hall on the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.

Alex Kronemer, of Unity Productions Foundation, holding the award, with members of FAN’s staff at the 2017 McCarrick celebration (Photo courtesy of Janine Walsh)

“There was great conversation all around the room from attendees who were eager to support and uplift the team at Unity Productions Foundation for all their great work on the Sultan and the Saint film,” according to FAN’s website. “In the spirit of the film’s message, we began the evening with prayers from both the Qur’an and St. Francis as a demonstration of peaceful respect between our faiths.”

UPF films have been viewed by an estimated 150 million people worldwide via public television and have won dozens of national and international awards, according to FAN. “They have partnered with prominent Jewish, Muslim, Christian and interfaith groups to run dialogues nationwide in classrooms, community centers, living rooms, government offices and religious congregations. Their films – Enemy of the Reich and Islamic Art – have received numerous awards and have been viewed by people around the world.”

UPF’s mission, according to its website, is “to counter bigotry and create peace through the media. UPF produces films that tell compelling stories for television, online viewing, and theatrical release.”

Photos from FAN’s McCarrick event can be viewed on the organization’s Facebook page.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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