#SheReviews Cabrini Movie – Ruth Greening

March 7, 2024

It wasn’t until I watched the spellbinding Cabrini, that I realised this to be the most appropriate movie to watch given International Women’s Day will be celebrated on March 8. 

Based on a true story about Mother Francesca Cabrini, an Italian nun who should be remembered and rejoiced due to her unbelievable, astonishing achievements in a world that appeared doomed from the start. This film breaks my heart. The outcomes far surpassed my expectations. I was mesmerised from beginning to end. 

The time, late 1889 to 1910 when over 2 million Italians immigrated to the United States. Desperately poor, often illiterate and seldom spoke English, they were considered to be of inferior intelligence, only fit for menial labour and a threat to the very fabric of America. 

Our ignorance, lack of caring for human nature nor the understanding of the pain and suffering people endured back then, quickly present itself on the big screen.  

The opening scene was upsetting and frustrating because it was real. A desperate young boy trying to get help for his dying mother is rejected by the American hospital system because he is an Italian immigrant. Italians were considered to be the lowest of the low. How we humans treat others with such cruelty, never ceases to amaze and sadden me, even today. A sign of a good film

Brilliant acting by leading Italian actress Cristiana Dell’Anna. She was as dynamic as her character Mother Cabrini, emotionally draining, a compassionate story that brought me to tears during more than one scene. A magnificent movie perfectly completed with black and white live footage of true events, that gave us hope. 

For women living in 2024, if you think it is all too impossible and need some motivation, watch Cabrini and you may change your mind. 

The Story

Based on the true life of Mother Cabrini who was born in Northern Italy in 1850. Award-winning director of Sound of Freedom, Alejandro Monteverde brings to light the powerful epic of Francesca Cabrini, an Italian immigrant. She and six of her Missionary Sisters arrived in New York City in 1889 greeted by disease, crime and impoverished children. They are on a daring mission, to convince the hostile mayor to secure housing and healthcare for society’s most vulnerable

 Monteverde wanted to make Cabrini as it is, an underdog story on a truly epic scale- the story of one woman defying impossible odds in a world dominated by men. She had used her entrepreneurial mind to build an empire unlike anything seen before. 

Nearly drowning as a child her fear of water is incorporated in the film but she overcame it after making 23 Atlantic trips to do missionary work around the world. One of her powerful sayings learn to face your fears. Another as she became progressively ill,  carry on and lead to demonstrate you can do all things, whether I am here or not.

In the late 1800s into the 1900s, her story tells what it was like to be a woman in a man’s world, touching on violence and abuse against women, gender inequality, and women’s rights. Stay where you belong, a phrase Cabrini was accustomed to hearing yet one of her biggest motivators.  

Writer, Rod Barr built the story to ensure the viewer was confronted with the prejudices of a person wearing a habit as well as what it was like to be a woman. It explores the power of a woman’s voice when at that time at the turn of the 20th century, women had no voice and most of all Cabrini was a nun. Yet beyond belief, battling a chronic illness, Cabrini showed she was a force to be reckoned with.  

She proved you could overcome anything from the most dangerous pimp in the slums to the highest politician in New York. Somehow Cabrini built a multinational conglomerate at a time when women couldn’t even vote. Despite her severe knockbacks, she never backed down.  All that time her compassion and love were dedicated to the orphans and the immigrants.  

Cabrini explores the difference between immigration and immigrants. Immigration is a policy issue, the immigrant a human being. Cabrini in her role as a nun and a human was entirely focused on the suffering human in front of her. Even today her message is simple: Look at the immigrant-look at everyone-first through the lens of love. All she has ever asked is What kind of world do we want and what will we do to achieve it?

Points of Interest: 

1909, October 9, Mother Cabrini became a naturalised citizen in Seattle, Washington. 

1946 Cabrini was canonised at St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, by Pope Pius XII and became the first American citizen to be named a saint. Four years later she was given the title of Patroness of Immigrants. She was called the Patron Saint of Immigrants

1917, December 22 in Chicago, Cabrini died at 67 of chronic endocarditis.

For 34 years she established an astonishing 67 institutions: hospitals, orphanages and schools fuelled by serving Jesus in whatever he asked of her. All institutions were run by women. 

Her legacy still stands today. Tag line-Cabrini: The world is too small for what I intend to do

Cast & Crew

Director- Alejandro Gomez Monteverde

Story- Alejandro Gomez Monteverde & Rod Barr

Producers: Jonathan Sanger, Leo Severino

Main Cast: Cristiana Dell’Anna, John Lithgow, David Morse, Ciancarla Fiannini, Federico Castelluccio, Jereemy Bobb 

In cinemas on March 7

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