|S a n R a f a e l F i l m s
An Interview with Patricia Lacy Collins
By Dr. Debra D. Andrist
Cullen Professor of Spanish - University of St. Thomas, Texas
How did San Rafael Films get its start?
With the optimistic thought that a friend, Bob Cozens, might be
interested in making a film about a subject I had researched: Holy
Week in San Miguel de Allende. I hoped Bob, with much experience
and success in documentary production, might undertake developing
a film on the subject—and I might serve as research assistant.
Why is it named after San Rafael?
Another friend had a craft business in Mexico and needed help with distribution. We discussed
working together as we sat on the steps of the church of San Rafael. In time, the distribution
project faded and the film project emerged. The archangel Rafael is a formidable patron.
How did you get interested in film production in the first place?
I wrote a small book , HOLY WEEK IN SAN MIGUEL. But I knew that films, particularly those
shown by PBS, reach vastly more people than single books.
Who else is involved artistically and financially?
Bob Cozens, (Robert S. Cozens) is co-producer and director. Bill Moore, of POV studios, is editor.
Crew members from Texas and Mexico. Countless people have been and are valued participants
in the work. The Southwest Alternate Media Project (SWAMP) and the University of St. Thomas ,
Houston, as financial sponsors, provide non-profit status for the work. Both accept for us grants
from foundations and individuals.
What are the goals/motivations of the San Rafael Films?
Cultural understanding. Demographic changes in the United States are part of a “long duration”
historical process, a major and irreversible process. We can benefit from the growing Hispanic
population to the extent that we understand their rich spiritual heritage. We need the conviction and
moral strength the Hispanics can provide.
I know parts of Mexico and have visited there over 35 years. Also, the largest part of the Hispanic
or Latino population in the United States is from Mexico.
Why religious topics?
Popular piety in Mexico is strong—and it is visual. So visual that when Bob Cozens first saw my
collection of Holy Week photographs, he didn’t tell me but he knew immediately that we could
make a powerful film..
Tell about your first film from conception to distribution.
Bob suggested that I draft a script for him to take to Ken Lawrence, program director for Houston
public television. He also said that if I found some of the funding I would have a stronger say in
story development. Once in, I couldn’t let go.
It took three years to find the financial support, do the filming and editing, and finally see Darkness
into Light: Semana Santa, San Miguel broad cast on our local PBS, Channel 8. We finished in
time for Ken to schedule it for Easter Sunday, 1997. It has played locally every Easter week since.
The National Educational Television Association picked it up in 1999 and has made it available to
public broadcasting stations nationwide. It has been broadcast to well over 30 million
households in the US. Cable EWTN has given the film repeat broadcasts since 2000; it reaches
44 million households in the US.
Tell about your second film from conception to distribution.
Before I expected to start, we began a film about Mexican devotions to the Virgin Mary. Guadalupe,
Mother of All Mexico is a beautiful account of the role of the Virgin Mary in drawing the people to the
Christian faith. It tells the first part of the spiritual journey of the Mexican people. Semana Santa,
San Miguel falls into place as the central story, and Following the Spirit will complete the account.
What have been the reactions of the public and the film industry to the
Good reactions. Guadalupe, like Semana Santa, has been broadcast by multiple public
broadcast stations and by EWTN. Conservatively, I think they have been broadcast to over 50
million television households. The beauty is, the films are classic, timeless, and rich in content;
so they can be viewed over and over. I can always tell when EWTN has broadcast because the
phone starts ringing right away: people want to have video copies.
International film festivals have granted both films significant awards.
Tell about you third ((current) film from conception to distribution.
Following the Spirit has required four years to develop. It studies an important and difficult
subject: the separation of church and state in Mexico,. The film explores a prolonged struggle
that finally is approaching a positive conclusion: people of all convictions can now begin to live
their beliefs freely and openly.
Mexican scholars and intellectuals such as Guadalupe Jimenez Codinach, Manuel Ramos, Jean
Meyer, and Elena Poniatowska throw light on aspects of this subject. Their accounts indicate that
freedom to live according to conscience is a basic condition for all human rights. The Day of the
Dead, the revived Feast of Corpus Christi, these events dramatize Mexico’s irrepressible popular
piety. This is some finale!
What does the future hold for San Rafael?
The series is a pioneer treatment of an important subject. We want to maximize its use.
Edward Olmos recently narrated Guadalupe and Semana Santa, San Miguel. His narration of all
three films helps provide unity and weight for the series.
Now we will concentrate on broadcast distribution—national and international, for English and
Spanish language audiences. We also will develop nonbroadcast use, including broad academic
uses. We have a lot of work to do for the series. It deserves it.