Filmmaker’s documentary to feature shrine

By Sam Lucero | Catholic News Service | April 23, 2020

Frank Zapata traveled to Champion from Colombia to learn about Our Lady of Good Help

CHAMPION — Medellin, Colombia, is a long way from northeast Wisconsin, but Frank Zapata, 33, made the journey to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in February to document the story of the Blessed Mother appearing to Adele Brise.

Frank Zapata, an independent film producer from Colombia, is pictured at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help’s Mother of Mercy Hall. Zapata visited Champion in February as part of a documentary he is filming on Marian apparitions around the world. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

“I was on the internet looking for the approved Marian apparitions and found Our Lady of Good Help,” said Zapata, a freelance journalist whose previous documentaries are posted on his website, frankperiodista.com. “I decided I wanted to come here and learn about it personally and at the same time share the message with the whole world. Nobody in Latin America knows about this place.”

Two years ago, Zapata began work on a new documentary about Marian apparitions around the world. “My main objective is to help the people fall in love with the Virgin Mary and to know what Mary is trying to let the world know,” Zapata said through an interpreter.

Zapata said he has already visited numerous apparition sites around Europe, and he hopes his next visit will be to Rwanda, site of the apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho, who first appeared to a high school student, Alphonsine Mumureke, in 1981. “I will try to finish my documentary around August,” said Zapata.

A computer technician turned filmmaker, Zapata said his faith guided his career path.

Love for the Blessed Mother
“I love the Virgin Mary. I pray the rosary every day for 16 years,” he said. “What I want is for people to know the love of our mother, to heed the words of our mother.”

The third of five children, Zapata was raised in a faith-filled home. While attending a prayer group 11 years ago, the topic of abortion was discussed. “It was so impressive for me and I said, ‘Why am I not doing anything? I have to do something. God put that on my heart.”

It led him to make his first documentary, “Vida O Muerte? Los mayores expertos en Latinoamérica hablan sobre el aborto.” (Alive or dead? The major experts in Latin America talk about abortion.)

“It was a simple video about abortion and I did it in a week,” Zapata said. He followed up that documentary with one exploring the influence of music, “Musica: Quién maneja tu vida?” (Music: Who controls your life?)

Altogether, Zapata has produced six documentaries, all of which explore social issues that can draw people away from God.

Zapata was asked if he had any desire to present his work to Pope Francis, a fellow Latin American.

“Of course,” he said with a laugh. “It’s not easy. If you know him, help me.”

Near encounter with pope
Zapata actually had a near encounter with the pope while filming his first documentary, he said.

“I was in Buenos Aires making interviews” for the film on abortion, he said. “I went to the Curia (diocesan offices) and I asked, ‘Can I make an interview with Cardinal Bergoglio?’ They said, ‘Oh yes, but one week ago he went to Rome. If you come back in two months, you can interview him.’ But he never came back.”

The archbishop of Buenos Aires, who was in Rome to elect a new pope in 2013, was himself elected supreme pontiff. “If I was a week earlier, I would have interviewed the pope,” said Zapata.

According to Zapata his work is funded through donations “by people who know my work, because everything I do is free.” He posts all of his documentaries on YouTube and to his website as a way to evangelize people. “We have more than 40 million views on YouTube and Facebook,” he said.

Zapata spent five days in Champion and said the apparition site is different than other sites around the world.

Mary’s presence at shrine
“First, it’s a place away from the crazy life” of major cities, he said. “It’s a place you can feel the presence of Mary here. She is here every day, every moment, receiving the pilgrims. I enjoy that a lot and … what I have seen and felt. I want not only people in the United States to know what’s going on here, but all around the world.”

Zapata noted that at other Marian apparition sites, it is difficult to pray in silence because of the crowds and noise. “In other places, a lot of people go only for a photo. If you pray, you have to pray within yourself,” he said. “You come here to pray, to have an encounter with God, with the Virgin Mary.”

He said his main objective is to help others know God through his documentaries. His message to young people is simple: “Do not waste your life on vices. The only one that can fill your heart and make you happy is God. Whoever runs from God, all that good is going to be lost.”

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