Cristiana Dell'Anna: 'Cabrini' celebrates doing the right thing, even when it's difficult

Cristiana Dell’Anna and David Morse star in the new film, "Cabrini," in theaters Friday. Photo courtesy of Angel Studios
1 of 5 | Cristiana Dell’Anna and David Morse star in the new film, "Cabrini," in theaters Friday. Photo courtesy of Angel Studios

NEW YORK, March 8 (UPI) -- Cristiana Dell'Anna says she wanted to play the titular heroine in Cabrini because it is the story of a great woman who devoted her life to helping others, even when that was extremely difficult.

"I wanted to be her," Dell'Anna told UPI in a recent Zoom interview.


"Life is about overcoming obstacles, especially for women, so it's a constant battle and you have to remind yourself that if you do nothing, then things will go wrong, but you have to keep acting, you have to keep doing the right things for things to go right."

Sound of Freedom director Alejandro Monteverde helmed the critically acclaimed Cabrini.

In theaters Friday, the film follows Catholic missionary and eventual saint Francesca Cabrini as she travels from her native Italy to an impoverished and crime-ridden neighborhood in New York City in the late 1800s to care for and educate orphaned immigrants.


"Now that I've seen the movie, I understand the power of it," said David Morse, who plays Archbishop Augustine Corrigan, Cabrini's foe-turned-ally in the film.

"It's not like I felt, 'This has a message to tell.' We had a good movie to make. We've got a good script here and good actors, and then out of it comes this really powerful movie because of Dell'Anna's performance and this woman's life."

That said, Morse said he thinks the film's main themes of courage and strength in the face of adversity -- as exemplified by Mother Cabrini and the nuns who served with her -- will resonate with viewers in 2024.

"It really was resilience when you think of how difficult that world was," the actor said.

"To move through the just the world itself, never mind what she had to be up against in terms of the church, the structure, the politics, the men, all of that," he added. "It took resilience, and she was a great example of it."

Dell'Anna said she researched Cabrini's life thoroughly before she started shooting, but said she felt like she really was able to inhabit the character once the cameras started rolling.


"A lot of it came from the opposition between the archbishop and Cabrini," she added.

"Other things came from the love and support from the other sisters. The moments you start having the relationships with the other characters, then your character starts to make sense."

Morse said he sees the archbishop as a more of a politician than a compassionate man of God who would support Cabrini's efforts to build orphanages, schools and hospitals.

"I'm set in my ways," he added. "She's trying to get something done and I don't want her to do it. Over the course of it, I change because of her."

Dell'Anna said she believes people are impacted by every new person and situation they encounter and this holds true for Cabrini and her supervisor.

"She is more a self-aware person, more knowledgeable and wiser because of the things she learns from the archbishop," Dell'Anna said.

Monteverde told UPI in a separate Zoom chat that he initially resisted the idea of making a movie about the iconic nun because he didn't realize how fascinating her tale was when he was first approached by the film's producers.

"By Page 10, I was like, 'I really want to make this story,'" the director said, adding he sees it as an inspiring story about the triumph of the human spirit.


"I was able to see the entire film in my head," Monteverde said. "I was very amazed by her inner power and her conviction to change the world. The power of one. Where does that come from, this desire? She was thinking big from the beginning."

The film also features John Lithgow, Giancarlo Giannini, Virginia Bocelli, Frederico Ielapi, Christopher Macchio, Patch Darragh and Rolando Villazón.

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