‘Chosen’ Rockford Screening March 18
Film about Rockford’s Poor Clares to be shown near the anniversary of the day St. Clare left her parents’ house to follow St. Francis of Assisi.
By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor
March 8, 2018
ROCKFORD—After a decade in the making and a year on the international film festival circuit, “Chosen — Custody of the Eyes” will make its public debut here on March 18.
The film by Abbie Reese and the Poor Clare Colettines of Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford follows a novice from her early days with the nuns through her vows as a bride of Christ. 
Reese said she selected the screening date in order to coincide with St. Clare’s founding of the order in Assisi, Italy. It is the second oldest Franciscan order.
The showing, scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Nordlof Center at 118 N. Main St., is sponsored by The Observer. Tickets, which should be purchased in advance, are $5 per person.
CD Proceeds Go Straight to Poor Clares
One of several projects involving the Poor Clares of Rockford and Abbie Reese is a CD, “A Voice to Sing Your Praise.” 
“The CD was made for the 100th anniversary, two years ago, of the Poor Clare Colettine’s founding in Rockford,” Reese said. “I had asked the nuns to audio record their songs and chants for the soundtrack of ‘Chosen,’ and it worked out best to simply lend them the audio recording equipment. 
“They recorded 39 chants, as well as songs that were written by the nuns in Rockford, nuns at other communities, and one former nun. I worked with an attorney who helped us secure permission from the various communities and the one individual to use the songs in the film. 
“I encouraged the nuns to also make a CD, thinking that people would be keen to hear their original work and the chants that have been part of their order for centuries. They initially made 1,000 CDs. We’ve just made another 1,000. The CDs continue to be available at the monastery and I’m listing the CD online, on the film’s website ... so that anyone anywhere in the world can find it.”
Proceeds from the CD sales go directly to the Poor Clare Colettines in Rockford. CDs, posters and DVDs will be on sale at the film screening March 18.
To show the world how cloistered nuns live yet retain their privacy, each of the nuns selected pseudonyms for both their birth and religious names.
“Heather,” who’s journey is the focus of the film, was a blogger and artist before entering the monastery and becoming “Sister Amata.”
She did the bulk of the filming for the project, while Reese wrote the final script, directed and produced “Chosen.”
“I’m remarkably grateful to the nuns for allowing me into their sacred space,” said Reese.
“Chosen is just one of several projects that have grown from Reese’s first contact with the Poor Clares just over a decade ago.
“I was keen to understand the lives of cloistered nuns,” Reese said, “as well as the process a young woman undertakes today in discerning her life’s mission, and attempting to become part of a secluded, self-selected community. 
“I wanted to follow that interior journey of seeking out a religious calling — one’s path in life — and to be able to empathize with the obstacles that she faces before entering the monastery and once on the other side of the metal grille,” Reese said.
During the past year on the road, the film has won awards at several international film festivals. Reese said she has been “humbled” by the response.
“I think others are just as astounded as me by the remarkable footage recorded by Sister Amata and her religious sisters. 
“One festival organizer in the Baltics told me that this film was selected ... to open the festival not only
because of the caliber, but because, as he said, the film fit so well with the theme, ‘Revealing the Unexpected.’ 
“As he told me, ‘Who would have guessed that a cinematographer was inside of a cloistered monastery?’ ” 
After a few years of getting to know the nuns before writing the book, “Dedicated to God,” Reese asked if she could bring cameras into the monastery so Sister Amata could record her life from her own perspective, “knowing that she was a painter.”
Reese said other feedback from the festival circuit is “this is a positive view into the lives of cloistered nuns. I do hope that it not only educates people, but allows viewers to enter into the monastic pace — the slower pace — of the monastery. 
“The film should challenge our expecations of films, and our demands for time these days. ‘Chosen’ does, in some scenes, unfold in real time and asks of viewers to engage in that moment with the sort of mindfulness that is integral to the life of contemplation.”
 Reese’s relationship with the Poor Clares continues. Among what she calls “this constellation of projects focused on the nuns,” are continued marketing and distribution of the film, “a digital archive online that tells the stories of people who engage with the Poor Clares,” an audio history of Sister Amata before she joined the cloister;  and a dual-video gallery exhibit.
Reese, who has won several grants and set up a crowd-sourcing site to fund the projects, admits she still needs funding to continue the work. Donations, which can be made at http://chosenthefilm.com/support.html, are tax deductible.
After the Rockford screening, the film will be shown at the Institute on Religious Life national meeting in Mundelein, April 7. 
Reese said that showing grew out of a recent visit she had at the monastery with the Mother Abbess, who conveyed IRL’s interest in the film.
Tickets are available in advance at http://chosenthefilm.com. Seating is limited.