"It was the most emotionally powerful experience I've ever had in a movie theater." - Jesse, Screening Attendee
VIDEO: ATHEIST FROM APPARITION HILL SHARES FR. RENE MOVIE
An increasing number of people are bringing Where There Is Darkness to their towns by hosting screenings of the film, and the audience response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Like many of these hosted screenings, the one recently organized by the Swoboda Family in Rockville, IL was used as a fundraiser—in this case for their parish, St. Pat's.
You may remember the Swoboda family if you've seen our previous film, Apparition Hill. Mark Swoboda, an atheist police officer, was chosen as one of the subjects for the film after his wife, Naiomi, nominated him in our contest for a free pilgrimage to Medjugorje.
So, when we heard that Crystal Murray, one of the subjects in our new film, was coming to speak to the audience after the Swobodas' screening, we were excited to see people from our two most recent films coming together.
Here's what Naiomi and Mark had to share about hosting the film:
NAIOMI SWOBODA'S REFLECTIONS
We sold out our showing!
I can say with certainty that this was because it was a parish sponsored event. Being so, it was in the bulletins, etc., but mostly it was because Fr Matt (our parish priest) mentioned it at the announcements at the end of all the masses for weeks running, and I was in the Narthex immediately after with a table set up for people to buy.
Our parishioners love Fr Matt, and they will go wherever he is going. So if you can get pastors to screen this, it would get big crowds.
We charged $8 a ticket, keeping in line with what a regular ticket would cost at the theater. Some people donated a little more. We made about $460 (in profits). It was discussed beforehand in donating the profits to Mary's Meals. I had the last minute ooooh inspiration to also donate to deaf and blind/ special needs kids in our diocese and Fr Matt should decide soon.
Guy Murphy (a Medjugorje promoter/author) was my guest and he liked it a lot. He is going to look into screening it. He has a conference coming up April 7th and perhaps he will show the trailer there. Also, Fr Charlie Becker (a frequent visitor to Medjugorje and supporter of Cenacolo) loved it.
There were definitely some tears. The movie itself was very powerful. It was incredible that Crystal could join us, just truly a meant-to-be moment. I feel that people being able to look at Crystal's face, speak to her, ask her questions and see her as a real person and hear her testimony was incredibly powerful and humbling. Her gentle and joyful spirit is to me, astounding!
One viewer, Jesse, contacted us later to thank us for hosting the film and said "it was the most emotionally powerful experience I've ever had in a movie theater."
There were many outbursts of applause as people heard about the progress she is making in healing and the future she is laying in place with her fiance and son. It is my feeling and hope that her witness will encourage and even spark the beginning of healing in some of our audience members. Many, many women and men have been effected by sexual abuse within the family or otherwise.
I have heard from all my female friends who came that the movie was "awesome, incredible, powerful, touching, amazing, a gift." Fr Gabe, a local priest, saw it at our house and loved it. A friend, Rick, said it was excellent and very powerful.
One other very powerful thing was when Crystal said because of this film she feels like she's met Fr Rene and that he has helped her so much. He even helped her forgive her father! We were all very moved by that.
~ Naiomi Swoboda
MARK SWOBODA'S REFLECTIONS
Hosting the film provides a unique and fulfilling experience; watching the film opens the door for a discussion that crosses boundaries. There were at least 200 people in attendance for our screening.
The faithful and the secular can have shared or conflicting views on capital punishment, along with themes of forgiveness, mercy, love, charity, and devotion. Where There is Darkness provides an opportunity to not just have deep conversations with others, but it also calls us to look inward for self revelation.
Having Crystal attend our screening was a fantastic experience for the movie attendees. Where There is Darkness is not solely focused on the story of a killer and his victim. The darkness that Steven was subjected to was also cast over his siblings, and some of the things that Crystal went through were documented in the film.
Hearing her talk about what she's had to endure was heartbreaking. However, seeing her talk about her past and what she's been able to overcome is a testament to her unbelievable strength. Then hearing her talk about what this movie has allowed her to do — to forgive the person that has caused her unimaginable pain and suffering — galvanized the audience.
Crystal being there in person may as well have been Steven in the flesh. Her presence helped to humanize the wrongs of her brother. It wasn't a monster that perpetrated the crime; it was an exceptionally fractured and flawed person. A person in great need of help.
I think that Crystal's talking to the crowd is cathartic for both her and possibly some audience members. Her journey to now has been a story of suffering, but I believe that this film has assisted in pointing her life in a healthy direction.
SEE MARK'S EXPERIENCE IN MEDJUGORJE IN APPARITION HILL
PHOTOS FROM THE SCREENING
RELATED NEWS: FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS!
Where There Is Darkness has been chosen by more than 40 film festivals around the world and has won more than 30 awards! Learn more.
VIDEO OF FIRST SCREENING IN ST. AUGUSTINE