Award-winning Knock documentary a story for our time
A documentary-drama telling the story of Knock shrine in Co Mayo has won an international film award.
The Irish production, Hope: Our Lady of Knock, was named as the best 'special or documentary' in the 2020 Gabriel Awards.
Hope was directed by Campbell Miller, from Newcastle, Co Down, for the global Catholic television network EWTN.
The annual contest, organised by the Catholic Press Association, honours works that "support themes of dignity, compassion, community and justice".
"It is a great honour and a powerful endorsement of our EWTN work," said Miller, who is the first Irish director to win a Gabriel Award.
"The cast and crew were all from Ireland and we shot the movie here on a small budget.
"Our actors' contribution was immense in capturing the faith and wonder of the people of Knock."
Hope examines how Knock has become a focal point of pilgrimage, visited by over a million people every year, following an apparition on the gable wall of the village church in 1879.
Villagers described the appearance of Mary, accompanied by St Joseph and St John the Evangelist.
The docu-drama on the national shrine blends commentary with reconstructions of life in 19th century Ireland, at a time when the country was experiencing famine and emigration.
"We obviously didn't know that the release of Hope would coincide with the Covid-19 pandemic, but there are parallels between the two eras," said Miller, who presented a copy of the film to Pope Francis at the start of the year.
"People are fearful for their future, everything looks a bit grim.
"It is similar now, to the prevailing atmosphere at the time of the apparition. There is poverty, disease and a sense of despair.
"Our Lady's appearance at Knock gave people a sense of hope - Ireland needs to hear that message again at a time when so many are under pressure, depressed, and fearful."
The film features contributions from relatives of the original witnesses, as well as Fr Richard Gibbons, the current Knock parish priest, Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin and Knock historian Tom Neary.
It also includes an interview with Marion Carroll, whose healing from serious illness at Knock while on pilgrimage has been officially recognised by the Catholic Church.
Before turning his camera on to the Marian apparitions at Knock, Miller made the widely acclaimed Bravery Under Fire, which told the extraordinary story of Fr Willie Doyle, an Irish priest who died as a British army chaplain in the First World War.
Hope is available on Amazon Prime and is currently being translated into German and Spanish for broadcast worldwide.