Swiss actress Jacqueline Fritschi-Cornaz thought her first visit to India would be mainly to meet Bollywood studio executives and make connections in another segment of the entertainment industry.
Instead, this trip has sparked a new passion in her — a passion that’s reflected in the upcoming film “Mother Teresa & Me,” which will be released on October 5.
Fritschi-Cornaz plays the role of Mother Teresa, canonized on September 4, 2016 by Pope Francis and officially baptized “Saint Teresa of Calcutta”.
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“I actually started this project 14 years ago,” Zurich-based Fritschi-Cornaz told Fox News Digital in an interview about her interest in Mother Teresa.
On her first visit to India nearly fifteen years ago, in a taxi en route to visit film studios in Mumbai, Fritschi-Cornaz said her world was rocked when she met “street children », children living in extreme poverty along the border. streets of Bombay.
“I was so shocked and touched to see this lack of perspective, to see this misery in all sorts of different ways,” she said. “So I was like, ‘I have to do something.'”
When her taxi arrived at its destination, she saw a painting of Mother Teresa in the driveway. It gave him an idea.
“I spontaneously asked this producer, ‘Have you ever thought about making a film about Mother Teresa?'”
The producer said he was “thrilled” by the idea, but there was simply no money in Bollywood that would be available for the film.
Over a 10-year period, the Zariya Foundation increased the film’s budget.
Fritschi-Cornaz, together with her husband Richard Fritschi and lawyer Thierry Cagianut, created the Zariya Foundation in Zurich.
Zariya means “source” in Urdu, a language spoken in South Asia.
Over a 10-year period, the Zariya Foundation raised the film’s budget through “donations and money from the foundation”, Fritschi-Cornaz explained.
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“We were able to shoot this movie during the pandemic, and we can finally release it all over the world,” she said.
All net proceeds from the film “will support local programs and foundations that work for the poor, sick, disabled, abandoned children and orphans, raising standards of health care and education for those in need.” need most,” according to the Zariya Foundation website.
“Mother Teresa and Me” is a fictional tale based in part on the true life story of Mother Teresa. The film tells the story of Kavita, “a spoiled modern young woman of Indian descent living in London”, who becomes unexpectedly pregnant and considers having an abortion.
In the film, Kavita returns to India to see her childhood nanny, Deepali.
Mother Teresa adopted Deepali when she was a child.
“As Deepali tells the stories of her past, Kavita begins to relive Teresa’s early life in the slums of Kolkata,” details the film’s website.
“Mother Teresa’s true human story positively inspires Kavita on how to move forward with her pregnancy, her life, her lovers and her family.”
Kavita’s story is closely linked to the origins of Mother Teresa, founder of the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. It pays particular attention to the period of the “dark night of the soul” of Mother Teresa.
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“The true human story of Mother Teresa positively inspires Kavita on how to move forward with her pregnancy, her life, her lovers and her family,” notes the film’s website.
In Catholicism, a “dark night of the soul” refers to a period of spiritual doubt, or a feeling of abandonment by God.
A decade after her death, private letters from Mother Teresa detailing her feelings of spiritual abandonment for most of her life have been made public.
Although Fritschi-Cornaz was aware of Mother Teresa’s charity work before she began working on the film, she was unaware of this part of her life.
“I actually didn’t know anything about his letters, published in 2007 by one of his confessors, which really talk about all these incredible inner conflicts, doubts and lack of faith,” Fritschi-Cornaz said. “She lost her faith.”
The story of Mother Teresa’s continued charity work despite her loss of faith was “very inspiring to me and to the screenwriter and director,” Fritschi-Cornaz said.
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“And it can be very motivating for people around the world to know (Mother Teresa) as a human being, the woman behind the saint, to be inspired and to truly believe in her own dreams and her own visions. ,” she added.
While researching the Albanian-born saint, Fritschi-Cornaz said she was “incredibly touched” to learn how lonely Mother Teresa felt during this time of spiritual doubt.
“She couldn’t talk to the sisters. She always had to be a role model. She only had a few confessors, you know, to share her emotions, her feelings, her sense of abandonment,” Fritschi-Cornaz said.
“It was so inspiring for me to see that she stayed true to her vision, that she stayed true to her calling, even in these very difficult times,” she said. “And that also helped me, as a person to do this project, and also to believe that we (could) really make (the movie) for all these years.”
Knowing about Mother Teresa’s spiritual crisis also helped Fritschi-Cornaz better prepare for the role. She explained that playing a well-known character is “one of the biggest challenges for an actor or actress”.
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“Really diving into all of those dark times in his life really helped me prepare a character and finally be authentic on camera,” she said.
Fritschi-Cornaz also studied the film Mother Teresa speaking. In addition, she met her relatives in Skjope, volunteered in Calcutta in one of the homes founded by Mother Teresa and learned to speak English with an Albanian accent.
“I visited with her family, and it was very, very touching to really hear how she was as a child, how she felt about leaving at 18 and never seeing her mother again,” he said. she declared.
Fritschi-Cornaz received a silver cross from Mother Teresa’s family, which she wore on her sari during filming, which was also very meaningful to her.
Mother Teresa “really tried to be there for the poorest of the poor,” Fritschi-Cornaz said. “I think it’s such an incredible vision and such an incredible dedication.”
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“Mother Teresa, in all aspects of her life, was a generous dispenser of divine mercy, making herself available to all by her welcome and her defense of human life, of that to be born and of that abandoned and rejected”, said Pope Francis during his canonization mass.
Born Agnes Gonxhe Bojaxhiu in what is now known as Skjope, North Macedonia, Mother Teresa was of Albanian descent, according to the Nobel Peace Prize website. Feeling for the first time the call to religious life in her adolescence, she left the family home in September 1928, at the age of 18. moved to Irelandjoining the Sisters of Loreto.
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Among the Sisters of Lorette, the teenager Agnès received the religious name of “Sister Marie-Thérèse”, in honor of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, indicates the Vatican website. A little over a year after her arrival in Ireland, she was sent to one of the missions of the Sisters of Loreto in India, which would become her adopted homeland.
“Mother Teresa & Me” hits theaters on October 5. Additional details can be found on the film’s website, www.mother-teresa-and-me.film.