St. Augustine bishop praises Fr. Rene movie

St. Augustine bishop praises Fr. Rene movie ahead of film festival

Filmmakers to present true crime doc at the St. Augustine Film Festival

ST. AUGUSTINE, FL—Filmmakers Sean Bloomfield, Cimela Kidonakis, and Jessi Hannapel spent much of last year representing their true crime movie at film festivals around the world, but they’ve returned to the place where the story began: St. Augustine.

Award-winning film Where There Is Darkness—which documents the disappearance of local priest Fr. Rene Robert—will screen at the St. Augustine Film Festival on January 18 in the Flagler College Lewis Auditorium at 12:00 p.m.

The three filmmakers from Stella Mar Films will answer questions from the audience following the screening. The Bishop of St. Augustine, Felipe J. Estévez, will be in attendance, as will many of those who appear in the film including the detectives from the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office who handled the case, friends and family of Fr. Rene, and even the sister of the man who abducted him.

After viewing the film privately this week, Bishop Estévez sent the filmmakers a glowing response. “I was so impressed by its cinematographic quality and amazing historical value,” he wrote. “The documentary has first-class footage of real events, a real work of art. I can understand why it has won several important awards. Thank you for investing your talents and resources to let this story of this man of God, Father Rene, be known by the public at large.”

Bishop Estévez also issued a public endorsement of the film, in which he wrote, Where There is Darkness is an excellent docudrama produced with great technical proficiency and storytelling capability. The re-telling of Father Rene Robert’s tragic story is very painful and challenging to imagine for any viewer, yet the redeeming quality of this film is that it brings to light the powerful message of forgiveness, love and mercy – a message our world so desperately needs to hear!”

The Saint Augustine Film Festival takes place in the downtown historic city center with 5 screening rooms at three locations from January 16-19, 2020. Tickets for Saturday’s showing can be purchased in advance at the St. Augustine Film Festival website.

Because Fr. Rene had a special love for the deaf community—and even learned sign language so that he could minister to them—the film will be shown with closed-captioned. The filmmakers also flew Fr. Rene’s sister to St. Augustine from upstate New York so that she could attend the screening.

Where There Is Darkness has been selected by over 80 other film festivals since completion last year and has won more than 40 awards. The St. Augustine Film Festival concludes the film’s festival run, and the filmmakers are now eyeing a wider release to help bring Fr. Rene’s legacy to more people.

What: Where There Is Darkness with Q&A after screening by filmmakers Sean Bloomfield, Cimela Kidonakis & Jessi Hannapel

When: Saturday, January 18 at 12:00 pm

Where: Lewis Auditorium (Flagler College)

Tickets can be purchased at: The Saint Augustine Film Festival website

Learn more about Where There Is Darkness at



  • Linda Inglima

    Please let me know if the film will be out on DVD for purchase
    Thank you

  • Maria Assuncao Russell

    How can I purchase the DVD of Where There Is Darkness? I am the Director of Religious Education on a Marine Corps Base, Jacksonville, NC. I have read so many good things that I would like to see it and share it with the teachers and students.

  • Terry Arnold

    Fr. Rene was a wonderful man and a close friend. The film was hard to watch but done very well. Thank you. Will it become available for personal ownership?

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