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Film Review: Rebel Hearts
by Karen Pecota

Filmmaker Pedro Kos heard a fascinating true story about a group of nuns in California who experienced a complicated relationship with the institutional church in the 1960s. A good portion of the information for Kos's documentary film Rebel Hearts comes from writer/producer Shawnee Isaac-Smith and producer Kira Carstensen. Shawnee brought to the project two decades of interviews with straight-shooting, kind, and loving Christ-following nuns from The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent in Los Angeles, California.

Twenty years ago, Shawnee began to film the lives and work of The Sisters of the Immaculate and deemed the journey of these women to exemplify a modern-day hero's pursuit. Once Kos saw the treasure trove of detailed documentation, he knew this was the story for him to share with the world. He delicately incorporates fabulous archival footage, stunning animation, and hours of interviews from Shawnee's archives.

Kos refers the storyline as a fascinating rebellion. He says, "Rebel Hearts is the story of an awakening; a meditation on what real change looks like." Adding, "Though the Sisters did not entirely succeed in changing the age-old traditions of the Catholic Church, they did evolve past the confines that had been imposed on them and made an impact that is still felt today." Noting, "They held true to their values and to themselves." They challenged the role of a nun and that of a woman in hopes to open the door for others to follow suit and carry the torch for future generations. Kos acknowledges, "They developed a new kind of faith community, one that is still alive and well today."

Kos describes it this way, "When we look at great stories of change that happened through history, they have one thing in common: Faith." He explains, "Faith in an ideal, faith in justice, faith in our community, faith in each other. Faith in a brighter future and finding a new way forward." He continues, "We need faith because the road to change is a long uncertain one. Movements are messy, filled with sacrifice, and they happen over a period of time, over and over again." Kos passionately shares, "The story of The Immaculate Heart Sisters reminds us that true change has been shaped by people who took radical, bold steps, and ultimately challenged their world in times of duress and uncertainty."


In the 1960s a group of unlikely resistance fighters known as the nuns from The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary convent in Los Angeles, California, share their story of bravery and conviction in order to stand up to an all-powerful Cardinal who sought to keep them from reaching their potential and those outside the church. Sisters Helen Kelly, Corita Kent, Anita, Mary Richards, Helena McCambridge, Anita Caspary, and Pat Reif led their rebellion promoting each sister to live up to their fullest potential while devoted to a life of service to others as well as themselves. Sister Corita Kent shows them how with her artistic talent.

Their desire to bring the church into modern life was met with opposition beyond comprehension. Since marching in Selma in 1965 to the Women's March in 2018, each sister discovered, over time, her own talent and they used their voices to become leaders in a movement that is still active today. We see by example in Rebel Hearts that The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary can fight a good fight without sacrificing their faith, morals, and principles to serve others as themselves, in the name of The Lord Jesus Christ.