"Nine Days that Changed the World," a new movie produced by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista, is a compelling biopic of John Paul II that attempts to show the importance of the Catholic faith to both freedom and democracy.
The movie focuses on John Paul’s historic nine day visit to Poland in June 1979 — a pilgrimage that transformed Poland and which historians say ultimately reshaped the spiritual and political landscape of the 20th century.
Drawing on a host of well-known experts and world leaders including the leader of Poland’s Solidarity trade union movement, Lech Walesa, former Czech president Vaclav Havel, and John Paul II’s biographer George Weigel, the film explores what transpired during those nine days over Pentecost 31 years ago.
Through his words and presence, John Paul II managed to stir his countrymen into peacefully rising up to free themselves from the shackles of communism, leading to the establishment of the Solidarity movement less than two years later.
A decade on, the momentum sparked by that nine-day visit fueled the fall of the Berlin Wall and, two years after that, the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
“We believe there is a message for every person in the world in John Paul II’s trip to Poland,” Gingrich told Newsmax after a premiere of the movie in Rome last week. “It’s a message that says freedom is based on faith and a message that says that no government can come between you and God.
“Whether it’s the secularisation of Europe, the dictatorship in Cuba or our own secular problem in America, this movie has a message that’s relevant to today and that helps introduce new people to John Paul II in a way that frankly you’re not going to get in modern secular schools,” Gingrich continued. “It also introduces a more accurate history of the Cold War than you’re going to get from a lot of secular, left-wing professors.”
The idea for the 90 minute film grew out of a recent movie Gingrich had made on Ronald Reagan.
While making that picture, both Lech Walesa and Vaclav Havel told him that the “key moment” in the collapse of Soviet communism was that nine day visit in 1979.
Until then, Gingrich said he had “no idea of the moral force of this story” which forms the basis of this largely biographical film of the late pontiff.
The movie, Gingrich explained, “helps you see and understand what John Paul II was seeking to accomplish, how he witnessed in a way that was truly historic and that had the potential to have an impact across the continent for many years to come.” The film also contains clips of some 100 hours of remarkable unseen footage which the filmmakers unearthed from the Polish archives.
Asked if the film is particularly relevant to the United States today, Gingrich said: “Absolutely. If you notice, you can’t pray in school; you have to tear down crosses; there are a number of parallels with what the Polish people were struggling against and what the Western elites would like to impose on our country.”
Gingrich, who was received into the Catholic Church last year, said of the current government: “This is a very secular administration, captured a little bit by the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts who said, ‘If you’re Catholic, maybe you shouldn’t work in the emergency room of a hospital.’ It was captured by a judge they nominated who ruled that, in the end, the legislature could not have a sectarian prayer before beginning each day.”
But Gingrich stressed these concerns go beyond the current administration. “It’s a continuation of an elite movement in the United States that’s been going on for at least 50 years,” he said. “There’s been a real effort to create an irreligious and potentially anti-religious American civil society.”
Asked if he felt faith is an intrinsic part of any true democracy, he replied: “I believe, and all the Founding Fathers believed, as I wrote in my book ‘Rediscovering God in America,’ which outlines this, and as John Paul II believed, that in the absence of absolute values, in the absence of the belief that your liberty comes from God, democracy becomes very fragile and weak.”
This is Gingrich’s fifth movie made in conjunction with the conservative organization, Citizens United. His next project is a movie on that third key Western figure after John Paul II and Ronald Reagan who was also central to the downfall of communism: Margaret Thatcher.
More on ‘Nine Days that Changed the World’ can be found at www.ninedaysthatchangedtheworld.com.
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