First film on Mother Teresa won't be part of festival

A file photo of Mother Teresa.

A file photo of Mother Teresa.  

A 1969 BBC documentary on Mother Teresa, the first film to have been made on her work, will not be screened at Mother Teresa International Film Festival 2010, being organised to commemorate her birth centenary year, as the BBC has not responded to the requests of the organisers, officials said here on Tuesday. “We were very keen on having the documentary as the opening film of the festival. I wrote to the BBC three times, including a letter to its Director-General Mark Thompson, but got no response,” director of the festival Sunil Lucas told The Hindu.

The film, Something Beautiful for God, made by Peter Chafer and anchored by journalist Malcolm Muggeridge, made Mother Teresa's work known internationally, but what was the point of making a good film and merely keeping it in your archives, Mr. Lucas asked. The organisers had tried to screen the film in the two earlier editions of the festival — at the time of her beatification in 2003 and on her 10th death anniversary in 2007 — but were unsuccessful. In 2003, the BBC had agreed but had asked for £250 in screening charges. “We had declined on a matter of principle, as all screenings of the festival are free. However, this year being the centenary year, we may have looked for a sponsor for screening the film,” Mr. Lucas said.

The organisers have decided to go with ‘Mother Teresa,' made by Petrie sisters Ann and Jeanette, as the opening film of the festival that will be inaugurated on August 26, her birth anniversary. Released in 1986, the film documents Mother Teresa's work, as the Petrie sisters travelled with her across four continents over five years. It is considered “the most authentic” of the films made on her life, Mr. Lucas said. The 1979 documentary, Mother Teresa and Her world, the second film to have been made on the subject and the feature films, In the Name of God's Poor and Madre Teresa are the other highlights of the festival that will showcase 15 films.

“We could have included certain controversial films such as Hell's Angel but decided against it, as it could have been perceived as offensive. You do not celebrate someone's birthday by offending the person.” The festival is hosted by the government of West Bengal and UNESCO and supported by the Missionaries of Charity and the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

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