Documentary covers the story of seven pilgrims to alleged Marian site
By Deborah Gyapong
Apparition Hill, playing in Vancouver in April, is a powerful documentary about pilgrimage and spiritual transformation.
Apparition Hill, which originally debuted last May, tells the stories of seven people who entered a contest to go on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, a small town in Bosnia-Herzegovina where six alleged visionaries claim to see regular apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Millions have visited the town since the alleged apparitions began in 1981, but Medjugorje remains controversial. Its Catholic bishop has said he does not believe anything truly supernatural is going on. Pope Francis, too, has made veiled comments that seem skeptical.
Despite the controversy and polarized opinions on Medjugorje, they are tangential to the movie’s great documentary story-telling that shows the love of God and his closeness during our struggles and suffering.
The pilgrims include a widower who has struggled to raise his 10 children on his own; a young husband and policeman who is an atheist; a young man in a desperate struggle with drug addiction; a young mother dying of cancer and her husband; a Catholic woman who converted to Catholicism from the Mennonite faith and who still has a problem understanding devotion to Mary; and a man from the UK who is married to a Catholic, but considers himself an agnostic.
The film also profiles a Canadian man, Darryl Bach of Glace Bay, N.S. Bach suffers from ALS and was unable to accompany the group on the pilgrimage. Instead, Stella Mar Films, which produced the documentary, flew him to Medjugorje on a separate trip, which we see in the movie.
The movie incorporates videos of the pilgrims sharing their thoughts, interviews with priests at Medjugorje, and private sessions with some of the visionaries like Mirjana, who claims to have first seen Mary as a teenager in 1981.
In the process, the pilgrims begin to bond and pray for each other, even the non-believers getting caught up in it.
Whether or not Medjugorje’s Marian apparitions are authentic, the documentary shows the value of pilgrimage, of searching for God and how, in often surprising ways, he answers the deepest longings.
The film will play at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver April 1 and the Hollywood 3 Cinema in Surrey April 8. For more information, go to apparitionhill.org.