…and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
Which tree is it might be the question you are asking because as we can clearly see, by the clothes on their bodies, the actors and actresses in this film are not costumed for a biblical epic.
That said – we are talking about cuttings from the original tree that was used for Christ’s Crucifixion. These cuttings were planted in Castellammare del Golfo, Trapani, Sicily, Italy ,
In that idyllic location a tree grew and over the years, centuries and centuries to be exact, the leaves of this tree have shown remarkable curative, restorative and mystical healing powers. At the very spot of the tree’s location, a ramshackle chapel has been in use over all those years.
There’s a bit of brief background about the story’s origin and set up. While the visual aspect of the film doesn’t take us back to the time of Christ, the film opens with a British Naval Commander, one Lord William, possibly circa late 18th – early 19th century who had been wounded in Sicily and was near death, when he is found by a local sheep herder and his son. In relatively short order, bordering on miraculous, his wound is healed by the shepherd administering a salve.
In the present, a Doctor Ferramonti (played by Federico Castelluccio who appeared as Furio on 28 Episodes of The Sopranos), shows up in Houston, Texas to offer a giant pharmaceutical firm an opportunity to research and possibly develop a specific medical breakthrough based on studying the leaves.
While the President of the firm is skeptical, Senior Department heads, played by Eric Roberts and Marisa Brown are intrigued and soon a trip to Sicily is organized. Also apparently interested is another Senior Executive of the firm, and he’s played by Armand Assante.
Meanwhile we are told that a certain Spanish and Sicilian order of Monks, led by Don Diego – The Conquistadores de Christos, is losing favor in the Vatican. Apparently they have learned of this tree, and the leaves, and the chapel, and will go to any lengths to acquire either legitimately, or by cash under the table – the rights to this tree. And not unexpectedly, the Vatican itself has designs on this very same site in Sicily.
Okay, there’s your setup. Yes, the same wheels turned in my own head. Surely, you might be thinking, I know I was – we are heading into Dan Brown territory – The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons, and church secrets guarded zealously by warrior priests called the Illuminati, or in this case the Conquistadores de Christos.
Not so fast. This is a faith-based story, and it is more about the healing powers of the tree than any willingness to go to war over it. There are no gangsters, no Mafia, no Sicilian cops, and no chases. There’s some implied sexual activity but there’s no nudity.
What you can really like about the film is the spectacular Sicilian locations, the musical score, the fact that the story stems from a biblical reference. Plus it does hold your interest, and for the most part, the story is at once believable as well as well produced.
You absolutely know that while this is not a studio film, the film had a substantial budget, hired some well know actors, and did not try to go all indie – meaning inexpensive – on this production.
What’s more, the story began as a web-based series written by David Healey. He then rewrote it as a screenplay. Ultimately Healey decided that there’s a method to all of this and he saw the property as a movie to be made. He took on the role of Executive Producer and funded the film himself.
As he told us in the Q & A following the screening: It’s one thing if I want to do something crazy with my own money. It’s another thing entirely to ask friends and family to put their money risk.
Healey intends hopes to take this film to the Berlin film festival, and possibly Cannes, and maybe even Sarasota next April.
As for my rating – I’ll give the film solid points for its production values, points for putting on a cast filled with actors you know, and the Director Ante Novakovic, in his first directorial effort, has delivered a soild, if not quite worthy of being called superb, piece of film-making.
Three point seven five out of five.