Sir, tell us about the origin of your project. When and how did this idea occur? Could you share with us the story behind the birth of Our triumphant Holy Day?
So this idea came about when the Young Adult Ministry I’m a part of, Credo and my parish, St. Augustine’s in Ossining, NY planned on making a trip to the Holy Land. And amongst the group, the idea came up of me coming and documenting the trip. So about four months before the trip my priest, Fr. JP Seon called a meeting with me one day and pitched the idea to me and I knew right away this was an opportunity to not pass up. It was the perfect blend of doing what I love and getting closer to my faith.
How would you describe the title of your movie Our triumphant Holy Day?
Our Triumphant Holy Day is the second line from the hymn, “Jesus Christ is Risen Today,” which is sung on Easter and we got to celebrate Easter in the Tomb of Christ. So of course this felt like the perfect title because the Resurrection of Christ is a triumphant day but also us being able to have Mass in the Tomb was a triumphant day for all of us. But also every day of the trip was triumphant for us and for me personally, being able to make this film and being able to inspire people through it is huge. That to me is a triumph.
The trope of the journey symbolizes many things. What is the significance of a journey like this in a person’s life? I believe the journey is more than a religious one.
Oh yeah absolutely. The Bible Story and the story of Jesus is something I think anyone can relate to regardless of their faith or walk of life. Jesus went through daily struggles like we all do and had human emotions. Every site tells a story and has a message behind it. Stories like The Annunciation teach us what it means to have faith and take on an arduous task. The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ teach us that having faith while suffering leads to growth and big blessings in the end. It also teaches us forgiveness as Christ said as he was being nailed to the cross, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
Anyone who goes on a journey like this will understand that what Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Disciples and others went through are things we have to go through in order to flourish in our lives and it takes great sacrifice to meet our end goals.
The Holy Land is called, “The Fifth Gospel” because you’re literally seeing the Gospel Story in the flesh and you have the opportunity to relive those Stories.
Have you been an admirer of stories? Do you consider it an important part in the life of human beings?
Yea I’ve always admired various types of stories growing up. They definitely play an important role in our lives because they teach us something and open us up to many different ideas.
Tell us about your love for movies. What or who made you want to become a filmmaker?
I’ve always loved movies or stories from any type of medium since I was child, whether it was shows, video games, comics, books etc. I’ve always been a huge Star Wars fan growing up and that was what got me into loving movies and eventually in college, it made me want to become a filmmaker. The process of filmmaking has always intrigued me.
When I was in film school at Pace University in 2016, I was part of a course called, Producing the Documentary. For that year, we went to Cuba during Spring Break to make a documentary there. Of course we didn’t know what was going to happen or what the film was going to be about. But with fate, we happened to be going the same time President Obama and the Rolling Stones were going. That easily made the story for us, being about the U.S. opening relations with Cuba at the time. That experience really reinforced my love of filmmaking and just made me love documentaries even more.
Would you recommend a few movies and documentaries you believe everyone must watch?
Well of course Star Wars, haha. But I would definitely say documentaries like “The Cove ”, “No Country is an Island”, HBO documentaries like “What’s My Name: Muhammed Ali ” are definitely a few I recommend. And you can also see the Cuba documentary from my class titled, “Cuba’s Crossroads: Hope, Rock and Revolution” which is free on YouTube. You can see through films like those, different ways of making a documentary.
And of course, I would recommend watching classics like The Godfather, Rocky, Raging Bull, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, and Jurassic Park.
Any movie or story that you can get your hands on that inspires you is what matters most.
Tell us something about the setting. The Holy lands of Israel and Palestine. What role do you think the place itself plays in the movie? Did the landscape unconsciously inject a potent zeal in everyone?
Oh absolutely, every landscape got us excited. The Holy Land is like its own world. You don’t see a whole lot of scenery or sites like you do there. Jerusalem isn’t just any type of city where you see fancy skyscrapers or corporate signs. Many of the buildings are centuries old and represent something special. The Old City is literally like a time machine.
Every site I feel plays a different part. Some sites are uplifting and joyful while others are a lot more serious and dramatic. Each tells a different story. The Holy Land being the main focus plays a significant part because it shows us what faith does for us and that no matter where you’ve been in your life, amazing things can happen beyond our imagination.
The trope of a pilgrimage can be traced back to Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and more modern references would be Nissim Ezekiel’s poem Enterprise. Contrary to Ezekiel’s inferences, your proverbial enterprise was an enlightening one. Where do you think lies the fine margin between hope and disillusionment, faith and futility?
I would say trusting the process and believing something good is coming vs thinking your efforts are going nowhere and feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything no matter what you do would be the fine line. I’ve been on both sides of the equation and coming from experience, what you think or what your attitude is will be reflected back. If you’re hopeless and don’t trust anyone or the process, you don’t get very far. If you have faith, a positive attitude and hang in there as long as you can, that’s when you start seeing good things happening.
It’s like what Henry Ford said, “Whether you can or can’t, you’re right.”
A journey fraught with myriad reflections leads one towards myriad contemplations, turning him into a wiser person most of the time. A journey about knowing oneself. What did you learn from this journey and why must it be undertaken by one and all?
Anything is possible. You never know where you can actually go. Faith can do things beyond your imagination. Don’t let limiting beliefs about yourself or societal beliefs hold you back. Any situation can be turned around.
Christ shows us this a thousand fold and that’s why someone should definitely take on a journey like this if they can. Anybody who takes on this journey or listens to the Bible Story can get something out of it. Christ shows us we can do anything we put our minds to.
There are various profound reflections on the nature of love, faith and suffering keeping the life of Jesus Christ in mind. What is it about the life of Jesus Christ you think makes people relate to him, his love for mankind, the torture he was eventually subjected to?
He was human like all of us. He went through things we all go through, joyful friendships, loss, loving others, fear, criticism, physical labor, loneliness. He shows we’re no different from God and that God is very much like us. He teaches us how to go about life and how we should treat other people. He shows us all it takes is a little faith and belief that we can make it to where we want to be. Everyone needs that person who they can look up to and be an inspiration to them and Christ of course is a perfect example.