Announcing our American Premiere!

UPDATE: Tickets for our two festival screenings at AFI Docs are now on sale. Buy tickets to see Radical Grace Saturday, June 20th at 1 PM or Sunday, June 21st at 7:15 PM.  

The past few months have been full of eAFI Docs Official Selectionxciting news and it just keeps coming. This week, we’re pleased to announce that we finally have an American premiere! Radical Grace will be showing June 20th and 21st at AFI Docs film festival in Washington D.C.

AFI is a perfect next step for us for many reasons. For one thing, it’s fitting to have our American premiere in the hometown of one of our protagonists — Washington D.C. is where Sister Simone lives and works for economic justice with her organization NETWORK Lobby. Being in the country’s capital also gives us the opportunity to expand our audience to feminist organizations and political leaders. We’re excited to lift up progressive faith voices in a city with such a vital concentration of activist work.

And of course, if you can make it, we’d love to see you there!

Radical Grace Premieres at Hot Docs


The day finally came! We had our world premiere at Hot Docs this Tuesday, April 28th. We had a great crowd, and we were lucky to have with us Erin Saiz Hanna from Women’s Ordination Conference and Mary Ellen Chown from Canada’s Catholic Network for Women’s Equality. Of course our very own Sister Chris joined us as well. With all of their input, we had a fantastic Q&A after the screening. One audience member asked us, “Why don’t you send that film straight to the Vatican?” Well, we intend to do just that.

It seems like we’ve garnered some great buzz at the festival because our second screening sold out! If you’re in Toronto, you can still grab tickets for today’s final screening at 3:30. And don’t forget to fill out your audience ballot! We’re currently in the top 20 for the audience choice award, and you can help us reach number one.

Standing ovation at our sold out screening.


We’re thrilled by the positive response we’ve gotten from our audience and also from Toronto’s press. NOW Toronto gave us five stars and Danita Steinberg from Toronto Film Scene listed our film as essential viewing. “Radical Grace is a story that hasn’t been told before,” she writes, “And the Catholic church should thank these sisters for representing it proudly.” Amen!

Writing for Metro, Rosemary Westwood approaches the film from a personal standpoint. She acknowledges her own struggle to reconcile feminism and the Catholic faith: “The film asks how these women can stay in a faith that demeans their work and questions their spirituality. For that matter, how can I?” We’re glad to hear that our film may have answered that question for her. Here’s what Steinberg pinpoints as Radical Grace’s most profound gift: “It’s these women,” she writes, “their humour and compassion and their guts, corroborating the truth: I do, in fact, belong.”

We hope to reach many more people like Westwood and we can’t wait to share our film with a broader audience. As our director Rebecca told IndieWire, “I’ve learned so much from the Sisters, and now our goal is for ‘Radical Grace’ to help pass their energy and their passion on to more activists, helping them find that feeling of communion in their own work.”

You can read more of our great press here and check out more photos from Hot Docs on our Facebook.

Variety: Susan Sarandon Exec Producing Feminist Nun Doc ‘Radical Grace’

Variety Magazine reports:

Susan Sarandon has boarded “Radical Grace” as executive producer in advance of the feature documentary’s world premiere at the Hot Docs Festival in Toronto, Variety has learned.

“Grace,” the feature bow of Chicago filmmaker Rebecca Parrish, follows three American feminist nuns whose work for social justice causes sets them against the conservative hierarchy of the Catholic church.

“This film comes at a major crossroads in the Catholic church, and the nuns are everything that’s right with the institution. They stand with the marginalized, and won’t be bullied by a hierarchy that still doesn’t treat them as equals,” commented Sarandon, who received the lead actress Oscar in 1996 for her portrayal of Sister Helen Prejean in “Dead Man Walking.”

“I was raised Catholic,” Sarandon continued, “and while I couldn’t stay in a church that sidelines women and the LGBT community, spirituality is still an important part of my life. I feel a deep connection to the women featured in ‘Radical Grace,’ and this film will hopefully build a movement toward a more inclusive and just church, and world.”

Read the full article on the Variety website.

Reading List: The Women of Holy Week

This past Holy Week, it was gratifying to see so many people from around the web writing about the role of women in the Easter story, women who are often ignored by the Catholic establishment. Before the Internet, it is hard to imagine such feminist voices having a platform in religious discourse. One of the women contributing to this conversation is the author Rachel Held Evans. Here’s how she introduced her series of blog posts about the women of Holy Week:

“It is easy to dismiss the women of Holy Week, to say their presence at critical moments in the Easter story is inconsequential, holding no significance in modern-day conversations about gender equity in the Church.  But I’m not convinced it’s an accident that the first person to declare that Jesus had risen from the dead (to a group of skeptical men!) was a woman. I’m not convinced it’s unremarkable that God chose a woman to anoint the Messiah with oil and a mother to hear his cries from the cross.”

Our very own Sister Chris would not consider such details inconsequential, and neither would anyone else who draws upon scripture in their fight for gender equality in the Catholic faith. In fact, Sister Chris also published a powerful piece about Holy Week for the National Catholic Reporter, entitled “It Was the Women Who Stayed.”  Though women are often overlooked by Catholic teaching, she writes that this is especially painful during Holy Week, “when preachers commonly emphasize that Jesus was ‘abandoned by everyone.’ Everyone, that is, but the women, whose presence must have meant a great deal to Jesus, if to no one else.”

For Sister Chris, who advocates for women’s ordination in the Catholic Church, the fact that Christ calls on Mary Magdalene to proclaim his resurrection is quite significant. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, the Bible reveals women to be faithful disciples and fearless leaders. Why shouldn’t they be Christian leaders today? Clearly Rachel Held Evans is correct; It is important to talk about Jesus’ female disciples. So here is a roundup of articles you can read on the subject, and one about women during Passover for good measure!

Rachel Held Evans, “The Women of Holy Week”

  1. Why the Women Matter
  2. The Woman at Bethany Anoints Jesus
  3. Mary’s Heart is Pierced (Again)
  4. The Women Wait
  5. Mary Sees the Risen Lord

Sister Christine Schenk, “It Was the Women Who Stayed

Bronwyn Lea, “What Easter Says About Trusting Women

The Junia Project, “The Anointing of Jesus at Bethany

The Junia Project, “The Commissioning of Mary Magdalene

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, “The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover

Announcing our World Premiere – Hot Docs 2015!

Hot Docs 2015 Laurels

We are so excited to share some wonderful news:

Our film Radical Grace will have its World Premiere on April 28th at the Hot Docs International Film Festival in Toronto! Hot Docs is a top-tier film festival for documentaries, and we’re honored to be a part of the lineup.

It’s a crucial time to share the stories of Sister Simone, Sister Chris, and Sister Jean with the world — that’s why we’re reaching back out to our wonderful, inspiring supporters to request your help in getting there.

Pope Francis is changing the Vatican’s conservative tone in many ways — but progress on women’s leadership has a long way to go. What does it mean for the sisters, and the future of the Catholic faith more broadly? What does it say about women’s place in society, across all faiths? We hope that our film can be a jumping off point to discuss these critical issues.

As we prepare for the festival, we’re working like mad to finish the film — but there are important hard costs that we still need to fundraise for: sound mixing, music from our great new composer, licensing for news clips and archival footage, and our legal costs.

We need to raise $30,000 to cover our final costs.

Will you consider making another donation to Radical Grace to help finish (yes, for real – finish!!) the film before April?

We are so grateful for your financial support, but also for your help in sharing our project and rooting for us all along the way.

Thank you so much for everything.

– Rebecca, Nicole, and the Radical Grace Team

US Nuns use dialogue to transform Catholic patriarchy

Leadership Conference of Women Religious responds to ​ continued Vatican attacks.

The Vatican keeps trying to kick them out or control them, but the sisters resist. Their weapon? Profound dialogue. See below for the recent Vatican statement and the Sisters’ response.

Remarks by Cardinal Muller, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:

Let me begin with the notion of “disproportionate sanctions.” One of the more contentious aspects of the Mandate—though one that has not yet been put into force—is the provision that speakers and presenters at major programs will be subject to approval by the Delegate. This provision has been portrayed as heavy-handed interference in the day-to-day activities of the Conference. For its part, the Holy See would not understand this as a “sanction,” but rather as a point of dialogue and discernment. It allows the Holy See’s Delegate to be involved in the discussion first of all in order to avoid difficult and embarrassing situations wherein speakers use an LCWR forum to advance positions at odds with the teaching of the Church. Further, this is meant as an assistance to you, the Presidency, so as to anticipate better the issues that will further complicate the relationship of the LCWR with the Holy See.

An example may help at this point. It saddens me to learn that you have decided to give the Outstanding Leadership Award during this year’s Assembly to a theologian criticized by the Bishops of the United States because of the gravity of the doctrinal errors in that theologian’s writings. This is a decision that will be seen as a rather open provocation against the Holy See and the Doctrinal Assessment. Not only that, but it further alienates the LCWR from the Bishops as well.

(Read full statement)

Response from the Leadership Conference of Women Religious:

Over the past several days, there has been much public commentary on the opening remarks of Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the presidency of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) at their annual meeting April 30, 2014. In a public statement after the promulgation of the Cardinal’s beginning remarks, in separate releases, both Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, archbishop delegate overseeing the implementation of the CDF mandate, and the LCWR presidency affirmed the accuracy of the Cardinal’s remarks and commented on the positive conversation that followed. For LCWR, this conversation was constructive in its frankness and lack of ambiguity. It was not an easy discussion, but its openness and spirit of inquiry created a space for authentic dialogue and discernment.

The meeting with CDF must be viewed within the context of LCWR’s entire visit to Vatican dicasteries. In our first visit on April 27 to the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Monsignor Paul Tigue, Secretary, shared that Pope Francis insists upon creating, as part of the New Evangelization, a culture of encounter, marked by dialogue and discernment. We experienced this culture of encounter in every Vatican office we visited in the Curia, an encounter marked by genuine interaction and mutual respect.

(Read full statement)

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RGPoster_websiteTo better capture Sister Simone, Sister Jean, and Sister Chris’s struggle for gender inclusivity and social justice, we are proud to announce that our documentary will now be titled RADICAL GRACE! We feel that RADICAL GRACE encapsulates what these three brave sisters are trying to accomplish: to help usher society to a place where all people, regardless of gender or race, are equal to one another; where the modern struggles that affect humanity are met with an equally modern perspective.

And we have you to thank for picking RADICAL GRACE. Hosting the naming contest was an amazing experience, and thank you all for choosing a title that so perfectly reflects the story our documentary is trying to tell. Please note that the names on our social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter will also be changing to and

Again, thank you for your generous support; we would not be able to make this film without it. We look forward to sharing in the coming journey of completing RADICAL GRACE with you!

Rebecca Parrish and Nicole Bernardi-Reis

SISTER in the news again!

Sister Jean speaks at Good Pitch Chicago

Chicago Tribune, Business:Chicago Confidential
Melissa Harris
October 24, 2013

Seven directors of unfinished documentary films pitched a who’s who of Chicago philanthropic and business leaders for financial and marketing support Tuesday as part of the city’s first Good Pitch event.

The actor Danny Glover appeared, supporting two films, “The Message” and “Strong Island.” Multiple attendees wanted photos with Glover — but Glover first posed with Sister Jean Hughes, an Adrian Dominican nun, featured in “Sister.”

The film follows three nuns promoting “radical feminist themes,” as a 2012 Vatican report put it, in a patriarchal hierarchy. Hughes works on Chicago’s West Side for St. Leonard’s Ministries, which helps men and women re-enter society after prison. The filmmakers have been trailing her for about eight months, she said.

“It’s funny to see yourself in a movie when you’ve gone 75 years and nobody’s paid any attention to you,” Hughes said, prompting laugher. She stood and talked to the audience of a few hundred people with the support of a cane.

She later added: “It’s not about sisters really. It’s about women. It’s about women who belong to an organization that they believe in, that their parents believed in, that their grandparents believed in. But in fact, they understand all of the sudden that in this system, women’s wisdom is not appreciated. Women’s leadership is not sought. So the system is missing half of the world, and it’s got to catch up.”

The men, she said, “are working fiercely — and these are not bad people; I’m not against the hierarchy — but the men are working so hard to prop up the system because they believe in it, and the women are working so hard to do the mission.”

Although every filmmaker left the event with more support, “Sister,” one Tweeter put it, “won the lottery” when Organizing for Action’s executive director, Jon Carson, said his group would screen the film across the country. OFA is the legacy organization of Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns. And it has access to the campaign’s “extremely valuable” voter databases, including 17 million email subscribers, The New York Times has reported.

SISTER featured in BRITDOC Newsletter

jean and danny

They call it the Windy City and, sure enough, there was a whole lot of good in the air at Good Pitch Chicago two weeks ago. If you were there then you too will have felt the winds of change as 250+ filmmakers, philanthropists, non-profits, community organizers, educators and advocates converged around seven amazing new doc film projects.

Good Pitch, fresh from events in Taipei and Buenos Aires, was brought to Chicago by Team BRITDOC in London and New York, and our partners on the ground in the Midwest.

The day was characterized by both a generosity of spirit and of checkbook: Chaz Ebert – cultural leader and widow of celebrated film critic Roger Ebert – set the tone at the audience mic for film after film, offering her own support and exhorting the audience to get involved.

Other pledges included USD25k to the outreach campaign for Homestretch by the Chicago Community Trust; Jeffrey Pechter pledged USD10k towards the production of The Message which was followed by a PUMA Catalyst Award of Euros5k from BRITDOC; POV delivered important news that Private Violence was recommended for national broadcast, ensuring it would be seen by millions; and ten people came up to the mic for Strong Island with grants totaling USD25k. ITVS and The Richard Driehaus Foundation both committed funding (USD13k and USD5k) to The Dreamcatchers; and Jeffrey Pechter, EP of Becoming Bulletproof committed a further USD75k on top of the time and financial support he had already made; Kat White of KatLei Productions offered 10% of the finishing funds needed for SISTER and a USD15k challenge grant from the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention was reached by the end of the day for Private Violence.

And then there was the real money shot: Danny Glover embracing Sister Jean – star of feminist doc Sister – exclaiming with a kiss, “You are one of my heroes.” Sister Jean’s response? “You should get out more”. Classic.

The men and women featured in the films truly were the heroes of the day (Roque, Sister Jean, Brenda, Kit and AJ), delivering highly personal stories of overcoming adversity whilst keeping the discussions grounded by the reality they all face; the fight for their basic rights: health, safety, a place to call home, freedom to practice faith, freedom from violence, and access to justice.

Thank Goodness for Good Pitch!

Sister WS

After a competitive application process and a two-day workshop, we were ecstatic to be one of seven filmmaker teams presenting at Good Pitch Chicago, a project of BRITDOC in partnership with the Sundance Institute and a the Chicago Planning Committee.
Good Pitch is a magical event. It brings together seven documentary filmmaking teams with foundations, NGOs, philanthropists, broadcasters, brands, technology, social entrepreneurs, government, and media around leading social issues—to forge unique coalitions and campaigns around documentary films to maximize their impact and influence.


Sister table

We were thrilled to be joined at the by a powerful coalition of our new partner organizations: Faith in Public Life, Organizing for Action, Auburn Seminary, Groundswell, Call to Action, Muslims for Progressive Values, Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Sojourners. Chicken and Egg Pictures, Impact Partners and Al Jazeera America also joined our table to share their interest in funding and broadcast support! And the Hartley Film Foundation, funder and fiscal sponsor for SISTER sent good vibes from the audience.
These organizations have committed to: convene a brain trust for SISTER’s engagement campaign, assist in curriculum development, host and invite members strategic screenings, provide web content, share web content with their membership, bring the campaign to Catholic and secular universities, provide media training for the filmmakers, and connect SISTER with potential film and campaign funders.
While multiple organizations will collaborate on the above, several specific initiatives bare mentioning. Organizing for Action will screen SISTER in hotspots of the 2014 midterm elections, Call to Action will use the film to mobilize progressive Catholics who are not currently involved in Church reform work, and Muslims for Progressive Values will use the film in their in trainings on organizing for women’s equality in Islam.
Sister Jean
Sister Jean rocked the house when it was her turn to speak: “It’s funny to see yourself in a movie when you’ve gone 75 years and nobody’s paid any attention to you.”
She summarized her take on the film this way: “It’s not about sisters really. It’s about women. It’s about women who belong to an organization that they believe in, that their parents believed in, that their grandparents believed in. But in fact, they understand all of the sudden that in this system, women’s wisdom is not appreciated. Women’s leadership is not sought. So the system is missing half of the world, and it’s got to catch up.”
Sister GP Donors
Kat White of KatLei Productions made waves when she stepped up to the mic pledging 10% of our finishing costs for the film or $20,000! Chaz Ebert of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation pledged $5k to the film! And Kat and Chaz were joined by two individual philanthropists each pledging $3k in support. Thank you to all of our supporters! With your help, we will finish this film and make an impact!
To check out more photographs from Good Pitch, visit our gallery on Facebook!
Sister FB Gallery

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