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Martyrs Speak Through Children’s Voices

Catholic Heroes of the Vendee Honored in New Film

Brian McCall POSTED: 3/6/12

The Remnant Interviews Film’s American Director/Producer

Remnant readers may remember my review in these pages of Bernadette of Lourdes, the movie produced by Navis Pictures and featuring an entire cast of young Catholic actors.  Navis Pictures and the man behind the movie, James Morlino, have just completed another epic project, The War of the Vendee.  Using approximately 250 youthful Catholic actors, Navis Pictures tells the heroic story of Catholic resistance to the demonically inspired French Revolution.  (Shunning the public high school whitewash of this supremely anti-Catholic episode, Morlino portrays the master of the guillotine, Robespierre, as being in league with the Master of Lies.) 

The new film is an epic of faith, fortitude, bravery, devotion, and youth. The French Revolution falsely claimed to be casting off the old shackles of what its proponents derided as the Ancien Régieme.  In reality, the entire event was nothing but the old oppression of the Devil in league with the “wise” of the world, the philosophs—the “intelligentsia” of the Enlightenment—chanting the same old anti-clerical, anti-God (and, in reality, anti-common good) slogans of the enemies of the Catholic Church. 

It was the innocent common people of the Vendee (in Western France) who had been fortified by the preaching of St. Louis de Montfort, who saw with the clarity of children the truth of the Masonic-led French Revolution.   

As the film portrays, often the more educated nobility had to be prodded to act by the common people.  Vendee history aficionados might unfairly complain that the film conflates some characters and events for the sake of story-telling in a reasonable time, but in my opinion the screenplay and the acting capture the innocence, clarity of purpose, domesticity and youth of the story of the Vendee.  It is in this sense that I think the cast of children is very significant.  

The Vendee resistance was based on simple, clear principles:  “They have killed our temporal King and now they attack our Spiritual King.”  The men (and women, rolling pins in hand) of the Vendee rose up to defend that tranquility of order that acknowledged the sovereignty of Christ the King, and respected and honored His spiritual vicars (their priests) and his temporal vicar (their earthly king). “For God and King!” was their simple rallying cry which speaks to the noble heart of all children.  The noblest principles can speak easily to those who have become like little children.   It is the circumlocution of the devious Revolution that needs lengthy explanations and devious rationalizations.  The Vendeans were motivated by a youthful love of their priests, their religion, their king, their family and their ancestral homes and culture.  The child actors in this new film effortlessly convey that joy of youth that comes from fighting for a noble cause, nay the noblest of causes. 

One might question the suitability of using children to portray such a serious topic.  Yet, the children, together with Morlino’s brilliant use of simple humor woven throughout the film, bring a Catholic joyfulness to the serious reality of the story.  Anyone who has watched a child conquer a fictional army encampment with a stick sword and a cardboard shield knows of what I speak.  Children cannot fake enthusiasm the way adults can.  They can mingle joy with seriousness.  Their joy and zeal are real.  That reality pervades their performances in the film. 

I mentioned humor; Morlino beautifully balances the seriousness of the issues (not avoiding the failings of some of the Vendeans in failing to live up to their own principles as when some wished to execute republican prisoners) with touches of levity.  One of my favorite scenes is when a soldier decides to name a fire-belching cannon captured from the Republican army after his mother-in-law!

The tranquil domesticity which the Revolution breaks asunder is aptly portrayed with scenes of hunting with the parish priest (who was in his youth an accomplished hunter), a baptism celebration, and an adorable scene where a young child “blesses” himself in the confused but deeply devout gesture which is impossible to “stage”—a scene every parent of young children has watched with an uncontainable smile. 

In my review of St. Bernadette of Lourdes, I remarked on the high quality of the musical composition.  I thought it could not be outdone.  Yet, The War of the Vendee is complimented by a lush musical backdrop that enhances the artistic product considerably.  In an age when we come to expect mediocrity, or downright ugliness, from the musical and visual arts, Kevin Kaska’s composition is a welcome change of pace.  Navis Pictures, in the score, the cinematography and the story, has lived up to its mission as stated on their website: “To create stunning beauty so as to lift men’s souls toward God, and in doing so glorify Him.”

I have an additional aesthetic observation that Traditional Catholics will appreciate.  Navis gets the religious elements of the story correct.  After years of shouting at movie and television screens that project anachronistic novelties of modernist Catholicism back into the ages of Faith, I was happy to see the True Mass integrated into the beauty of the story.  (As a side note, the worst of these modern cinematic aberrations was a film about St. Francis of Assisi where the saint is portrayed offering a versus populum Novus Ordo in the vernacular, something that would have pierced the saint’s heart if he were not already immersed in the Beatific Vision.)  The highlight in this respect is a beautifully artistic scene where the “outlawed” priest vests for Mass in the forest while praying the traditional vesting prayers juxtaposed with the Vendee soldiers dressing themselves for battle.  On different levels, both priest and soldiers, ready to offer sacrifice, “go unto the altar of God; to the God who giveth joy to my youth.”

To conclude, I had the opportunity to interview director/producer Jim Morlino and one of the child actors, Paul Reilly (who plays Jacques Cathelineau, a peddler who serves as one of the leaders of the Catholic and Royalist Army of the Vendee). 

The producer/director of the film, Mr. Jim Morlino, and one of the leading role actors, Paul Reilly (Jacques Cathelineau), graciously agreed to grant an exclusive interview to The Remnant.  Their insights on the project are inspiring.  In particular the mature and thoughtful reflections of sixteen-year-old Paul Reilly should bring hope for the next generation of Tradition.

Interview with Producer/ Director Jim Morlino  

Q. How did you first conceive of the idea of making films with children actors?

Jim Morlino: The idea was born of my own experience, I suppose: I have children and I’m a filmmaker.  The one thing led to the other. I think most children or at least many children – especially those who are still relatively innocent, and unburdened by the weight of our current culture – love to perform and create.  And I think still more children enjoy watching other children perform.  After seeing how much fun my own kids had making some goofy, living room short films, I started to think it might be worth expanding upon.

Q. What do you hope to achieve by making films with children?

JM: Four things, really, in order of importance: 1) I hope to make something beautiful for God. 2) I hope to provide young people with an exciting and fulfilling experience of working on a feature film – to give them an appreciation of the art form, and especially to give them a sense of the true purpose of art – namely to glorify Almighty God. 3) I hope to provide a ray of hope to “former children” like me, by showcasing the natural talents of these innocents, who are the very future of the Church. 4) I hope to make a living for my family.

Q. What is the hardest challenge working with a youthful cast?

JM: I think the most difficult thing is the limited attention span.  At these ages, even with the best children, you simply cannot expect the same kind of concentration you get from older people.  Although, I’m convinced that this is a particularly unique talent pool I’m dealing with. These kids are largely homeschooled, and come from solid Catholic families where they are taught who they are, Who made them, and what their ultimate destination is.  They are comfortable in their own skin, polite, attentive, respectful of authority, and probably have a much longer attention span than average.  I don’t think I could have done this with any other type of group.

Q. The musical score for this film is of an exceptional quality.  How did you get the score composed and recorded?

JM: After our first film, St. Bernadette of Lourdes came out, I was contacted by a young, Hollywood “up and comer” named Kevin Kaska.  Kevin is a Berklee graduate, a protégée of John Williams, a friend and associate of John Debney (composer on The Passion of the Christ), and a very successful Hollywood film orchestrator and arranger.  He told me he wanted to do something for the Church, liked what we were doing, and offered his help on our next project.  When I first went to his website and listened to some of his music, I was floored.  When I heard the demos of cues he was writing for the Vendee film, I was amazed; and when I stepped on to the sound stage at Warner Bros., and heard an 80-piece orchestra playing his glorious score, I was in tears.  It was a big investment to use a live orchestra, but I knew it was going to be worth every penny.  Every note of his score perfectly supports and even elevates this film.  He is an absolute wonder, and we are so blessed to have him working with us.  At the session, which featured Hollywood’s “A-List” musicians, I had several players come up to me during breaks and say this was the best score they’d played on in years.  I think Kevin Kaska will be the next John Williams.

Q. How did you make New York look like the French countryside of two centuries past?

JM: Easy. We just avoided shooting anything that required electricity or gasoline!  Actually, that’s kind of a flip answer, and only part of the equation.  There are a lot of locations we simply couldn’t include or realize on screen because of budget constraints, like the la Place de la Revolutión, a real 18th century French village, or the medieval town of Nantes.  So we did what we could: we used some stock footage, and the same stone courtyard that we used in Bernadette for the site of the Guillotine, used colonial era houses, and built a couple small house fronts for our “village”, and decided to shoot the climactic battle of Nantes in the fields and forest we had available (which probably don’t look that different from western France).

Q. Why did you select the topic of the Vendee War for your next film?

JM: After Bernadette, I wanted to do something especially exciting “for the boys”, so I started reading about Cortes, and The North American Martyrs, and the Cornwall Uprising.  My friend, Chris Gawley had reviewed Reynald Secher’s book, A French Genocide, and he was the one who first told me about the Vendee War.  I was stunned.  I thought, “How could I have gone through Catholic schools, and a fair amount of higher education, and lived 52 years on this planet and never heard a word about this story?”  Then I read Michael Davies’ little book, For Altar and Throne, and I was hooked. The unwavering faith and incredible sacrifice of these simple people in the face of absolute evil is utterly inspiring and moving, and a story that deserves to be told. From the buzz in the blogosphere, we seem to be pushing a few buttons and making a few friends in France already, which is nice.

Q. Have you learned any important lessons for our time in making this film?

JM: I think I’ve learned that I don’t have the time or the luxury to just be angry at the injustice of the world any more.  Our Lord has placed me here at this particular time in history, with a set of circumstances, some of which are beyond my control.  Yet He has also given me a part to play in this drama, and a set of skills and tools, and wants to see what I can build – so I do what I can, and hope He is pleased at the end of the day.

Q. Aside from buying the movie how can our readers help support Navis Pictures?

JM: Prayer.  An “Ave” now and then would be greatly appreciated. Every night, the Morlinos remember everyone who is praying for us or helping us in any way in our family rosary intentions.  There’s also a place on our website where folks can donate if they like.  Of course, if anyone just happens to have a couple million stuffed in a mattress somewhere that they don’t really need, who knows – we might just be able to do the Battle of Lepanto next!

Actor Paul Reilly Interview

Q. Why did you choose to join this project of Navis Pictures?

Paul Reilly: Mostly because of my long friendship with the director and his family; I have known them for over a dozen years.  I had also played a supporting character in an earlier Navis Pictures project, Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, and enjoyed the experience very much; so when Mr. Morlino offered me the role I immediately agreed.  A large number of my friends were participating in the project as well, which made it all the more appealing.  As a teenage boy it is very hard to resist the offer of spending an entire summer engaging your friends in battle with various weapon props. 

Q. What was the most important thing you learned about the War of the Vendee and the people of this time and place?

PR: After accepting my role I began to research the history surrounding the Vendee uprising.  The two sources in particular that I used were A French Genocide: The Vendeé by Reynald Secher and For Altar and Throne: The Rising in the Vendee by Michael Davies.  The more I read, the more I came to realize these men took up arms in defense not only of their families, friends, and priests, but for the very survival of the Faith in France.  Since the Revolution used force to deny them access to the sacraments they resorted to force in order to regain them.  If Just War requirements have ever been met throughout history it was in this war.  It was a war of self-defense; a war in defense of the Church.  The sheer casualty rate and population loss in the region was unbelievably high.  While we were unable to depict the bloody details for multiple reasons, the accounts of the many atrocities committed against the inhabitants are blood chilling. Stories of the Revolutionary soldiers, who were called 'Les Bleus' because of their blue coats, pinning the ears of dead Vendeans to their hats; mass drownings; raping and pillaging; the list goes on.  The bravery of the people was immense.  

Q.   What do you admire most about your character, Jacques?

PR: His unwavering determination.  While he took ample consideration to decide whether or not to go to war; once he made the decision to fight he stayed the course to the bitter end with no thought of retreat.

Q.   What was the hardest aspect of your character to portray or the most difficult scene to act?

PR: On the whole I found myself relating to the character quite well so I just tried to act the way I really would if I were in a similar situation.  However, I found character development lines hard to deliver, especially mundane lines about food or the like.  The speeches were much easier.  All I had to do was find my inner Shakespeare; "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears".  It sounds rather counter-intuitive I know, but that's what happened.

Q.  I am sure children your age (at least boys) are interested to know if you got to shoot real guns in the battle scenes.  Did you?

PR: Unfortunately no.  There were several different classes of gun props ranging from wooden gun-shaped cut-outs for wide-shots to replica muskets and pistols with working hammers, triggers, and ramrods for the close-ups.  The cannons were non-functioning tubes, although they did have wheels and could be moved around.  I had a pistol, but the highlight of my weaponry was my sabre.  Although the blade was dull and relatively harmless it was quite pointy and came with a metal sheath.  In the sequences which required running, my sheath would become entangled with my legs.  I had to develop a system of belts and sashes to keep all my weapons attached to my waist and out of my way.

Q. I understand your little brother played your son in the film? What was that like?

PR: It was rather funny.  He didn't quite understand and for a while called me his son. My film 'family' was actually made up of three sets of siblings.  Two of my sons were brothers; my wife, my daughter, and my infant 'son' were actually sisters; and of course my brother played my son.

Q.  Would you want to act in another movie after this experience?

PR: Definitely.  It was a great experience.  I would love to participate in another one. However, acting among my friends and on such a powerful and moving subject added greatly to the effect this experience had on me.  Taking acting out of that context would diminish its value and make it much less enjoyable.  

Q.  Has this project affected your Faith in any way?

Certainly.  The sacrifices of previous generations are what allow us to live the Faith with some relative measure of freedom today.  What the Vendeans did shows a much deeper faith on a much greater scale than anything we see today.  For an entire section of a country to revolt for the Faith is unthinkable in these times. The enormity of their sacrifice highlights how far devotion and true commitment has eroded among the faithful.  Acquaintance with their sufferings and sacrifices imposes a duty on me to live the Faith with as much conviction as they did.  Their memory and the memory of all the martyrs throughout the Church's history must be honored with a resolve to follow in their footsteps should, God help us, it ever become necessary.   


Remnant readers can purchase a copy of St. Bernadette of Lourdes and The War of the Vendee directly from Navis Pictures on  If your church has a bookstore, ask your pastor about buying a few copies to sell there.  This is a film that both parents and children will love and deserves the support of all Catholic Traditionalists.

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