A newly released independent movie carrying a pro-life theme has already been hailed by Christians and conservatives for its moral and uplifting message.
"Bella," which hit theaters Friday, made it onto the media's radar after winning the prestigious People's Choice Award at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.
In the movie, famed Mexican actor Eduardo Verástegui plays José, a rising soccer star whose career abruptly ends after he's involved in a tragic accident that leaves a girl dead. He finds himself working as a chef in an upscale Mexican restaurant in New York – a job that leads him to cross paths with TV actress Tammy Blanchard who plays Nina, a waitress who recently learns that she's pregnant. After Nina is fired for her repeated tardiness, José follows to console her and learns of her pregnancy and her plans for abortion. He decides to talk her out of it. In helping her, José finds renewal and atonement.
Christians have praised the movie for its inspirational storyline.
"Most movies follow a predictable story line," said Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright, who attended an advanced screening of the film. "Bella, like real life, surprises you with a subtle yet profound story of exceptional grace."
Phil Boatwright of the Baptist Press called the movie "compelling" and "inspirational" for its positive messages.
"It is a film that celebrates the Latino culture, family and the value of a life," said Boatwright in a review posted Friday.
"Bella" also delivers a subtle but hard-to-miss pro-life message as it shows how an unwanted pregnancy turns into a God-sent blessing.
In an interview with Focus on the Family's CitizenLink, Verástegui, who co-produced the movie, said "intent for the film is to promote life and family values."
In another interview, the film's star said the movie's message is so powerful that some women who saw the film have already canceled plans for abortion.
"Babies are alive right now, jumping around – one in Miami, one in Los Angeles. That, you know, is the result of 'Bella.' And by the grace of God – through 'Bella' and through us – we're just instruments of saving these babies," the Mexican actor told CBN News.
Named as one of this year's 50 most beautiful Latinos, Verástegui said he turned to roles in movies with a moral and uplifting message after his 12-year career marked by success, fame, money, and pleasures left him feeling "empty."
"What broke my heart was when I realized I was offending God with the talent he gave me," he recalled.
Verástegui now produces movies affirming his Catholic faith through a company he named Metanoia films.
"The spiritual meaning is 'turning to God' because that's what happened to me. I had a conversion; I had a transformation in my heart," explained Verástegui.
While Bella is making its limited release this weekend, the movie's producers and supporters are hoping that a good box-office turn-out will encourage a major distributor to pick up the film.
"That's why this Friday, Saturday and Sunday is very important," Verástegui told CitizenLink. "Also, we ask that people help us with their prayers."
On the Web: Watch the Bella movie trailer at www.bellathemovie.com.