Tuesday, February 26, 2013

AUSTRALIA : HOLLYWOOD OSCAR NOMINEE EDUARDO VERASTEGUI VISITS

ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE RELEASE

Hollywood actor and producer Eduardo Verastegui in Australia

Monday 25 February 2013

By Fiona Basile
Kairos Catholic Journal

EDUARDO Verástegui is a man of many talents and much passion. The 38-year-old Mexican, who now lives in Los Angeles, USA, is a Hollywood film producer, actor, singer, model and pro-life advocate and he is in Australia this week to share his story ‘from fame to faith’ and to also launch his latest award-winning film, Crescendo, which made it to the final top 50 for the 2013 Oscar nominations for short film—spare a thought for him as you check out the Academy Awards today!

View photo gallery

Eduardo, who is speaking and launching his film in Melbourne on Thursday night at Australian Catholic University’s Central Hall in Fitzroy, was born in Xicotencatl, in northern Mexico, and was raised a Catholic. However, he was ‘always lukewarm’ about his faith. ‘My faith was not at the centre of my life—not because I didn’t want it to be—but because I didn’t know my faith very well, and how can you love what you don’t know?’
 
At 18 he moved to Mexico City to pursue his dream of being an actor and singer. He worked as a model, studied acting and later joined the boy band Kairo—they were a big hit and toured Latin America for three and a half years. He then started acting on popular Mexican TV soap operas—he starred in five shows in four years.

Still not satisfied with his entertainment success, he moved to Miami. His ‘big break’ came on the plane from Miami to Los Angeles, when he met a casting director for 20th Century Fox who invited Eduardo to audition for a film role. Successful in the audition, he packed his bags for Los Angeles, and a career in films that continues today—although his focus has now completely changed.

‘I was one of those people who thought if I had physical beauty, fame, women and wealth, then I’d be happy—I’d be somebody,’ he said. ‘That’s what our society teaches us and I bought it. But I realised I had nothing—I was empty inside.’

Thanks to his English teacher, who gently and consistently questioned Eduardo about his Catholic faith and his ‘purpose in life’, he realised that he had not been using his creative talents responsibly. He also realised he ‘was not born to be a movie star, a producer, doctor or lawyer’. Rather, he was ‘born to know, to love and to serve God. We are all called to be saints,’ he said.
 
At the age of 28, Eduardo made a promise to God that he would ‘no longer take jobs that offended God, his family or his Latino culture’. He had thought about life in the priesthood, or a life of mission in the Amazon jungles, but eventually a priest friend persuaded him to remain in the ‘Hollywood jungle’, where he could be ‘a light in the darkness’.

In 2004 he co-founded Metanoia Films—Metanoia is Greek for conversion and encapsulates his own personal experience. Its first fruit, the movie Bella—which he produced and starred in—won the People’s Choice award at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival. He has also starred in For Greater Glory alongside Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria, and is currently producing Little Boy, which is due for release later this year.

Eduardo has received numerous awards in recognition of his positive contribution to the Latin American community and to promoting a culture of life. He is the founder of non-profit organisations, Let’s Be Heroes and Mantle of Guadalupe. For more information about Eduardo, see www.eduardoverastegui.com.ar/ingles

For more information about Eduardo’s public talks this week in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, click HERE


ADDED FEATURE! QnA with Eduardo Verástegui

While enjoying a coffee in a local café on Friday afternoon, Eduardo shared some more interesting facts about himself and his work with Kairos Catholic Journal's photo-journalist, Fiona Basile.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing Catholics today?

We have the truth, but we need to work on our marketing. We need to recognise that media is very powerful, whether it be film, television, internet, video games, radio or music. In the United States, the average time spent in meaningful conversation between parents and children is around 6 minutes a day, whereas the children are spending about 8 hours a day in front of media. So we know who is educating the youth right now and it’s not parents, schools or the Church. There is nothing wrong with media, it’s just a tool and in fact, when used well, it can change the world. The problem however is what’s coming out of the media and right now, I’d say more than 80% is poisoning our society. So we need to deliver our message of love, truth, beauty and goodness in an attractive way.

You mentioned chastity also being an important issue, particularly for young people.
 
There are many people, even Catholics, who don’t know the real meaning of chastity. Many people think chastity and celibacy is the same thing and that only priests or religious are called to live chastely, but we are all called to live chastely. We need to be effective in sending out this message, particularly to our young people, so that they know the wisdom and reasons for living a chaste life. We need to talk about why it’s healthy, and a good thing to be able to control ourselves. If we are called to be saints, there is no sanctity without chastity—chastity is the big rock that sustains everything. And you need to pray for the grace of chastity—it’s a gift from the Holy Spirit.

In difficult times, what gets you through?

Mass is the centre of my day. We are in a fight and this fight doesn’t end until we die. We’re human and we’re facing big temptations every day, so the only way to be victorious is if you have God on your side. That’s why Mass and communion for me is the most important part of my life—everything else comes from that. It’s also important to recognise what the purpose of your life is—it’s to be a saint. As Mother Teresa said, ‘we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful to God’. I think when you understand that, it makes it a little easier because you at least know where you’re going, you know your purpose and meaning in life, so you can make the decisions you need to make. That gives a lot of peace and freedom.

What is the purpose of your film production company, Metanoia Films?

To produce films that not only entertain but which also make a difference in people’s lives. We want our audience to leave feeling inspired to be a better person, wanting to love and forgive more, and that they will have hope and fire in their hearts. My hope as an artist is to elevate the intellect to what is good, beautiful and truthful. I want to use art to heal the wounds that people have in their hearts and to think more about forgiveness, love, compassion and generosity—all the virtues in general.

In the opening of your movie Bella you say, ‘My grandmother once told me, if you want to make God laugh tell him your plans'. It’s a beautiful opening line.

It’s a famous sentence and it goes on to say, ‘And if you want to make God cry, follow those plans'. Sometimes our worst enemy can be our own personal dreams if they’re not in line with God’s will. Even if those dreams are good, if they’re not in line with God’s will, then you’re not going to be happy.

You’ve won a lot of awards for your film work and for promoting a culture of life. Is there an award that you’re particularly proud of?

Every award is always accepted with a lot of gratitude and of course it helps to open more doors so the message can be delivered in a wider way. But despite all of the awards and the success of the films, what is more important for me is all the people who call or send letters or emails sharing how their lives have been changed. For example, after Bella and Crescendo, I have been contacted by young girls who were pregnant and who were scheduled to terminate their pregnancies and who, after seeing Bella, for instance, they changed their minds and kept their babies. More than 1000 babies have been saved by the grace of God that we know of. Only God knows how many more babies have been saved—it might be thousands more. But even if it was only one, then that’s what matters. Life is sacred, it’s not an accident, it’s beautiful and we have to do what we can to protect it from conception to natural death.

Who’s your favourite saint?
That’s a hard one because I love all of them, and I learn from all of them. It depends what I need. I can say St Francis of Assisi, St Augustine, Mother Theresa.

What’ your favourite quote?
Mother Theresa’s, ‘We’re not called to be successful, we’re called to be faithful to God.’ That’s very liberating for me—taking into account the culture that we’re living in right now and that we all want to be successful. That’s not our call—our call is to be saints and to be faithful to God.
My second favourite one is what St Faustina wrote in her diary, ‘From the beginning of time to the end of time, all the sins of the world are nothing but a drop of water in the ocean of God’s mercy when you repent.’ I think for those of us who feel we have too much on our shoulders from the past, and that we could never be forgiven, this quote tells you that God’s forgiveness is bigger than our misery and our sins when we repent.

Where are you most at peace?
In Mass. That’s the best part of the day for me. And particularly at the moment I take communion—that’s when I feel that heaven and earth meet—where I feel that I have one hand on earth and one in heaven. That’s the most peaceful moment.

Do you have favourite hymn?
Salve Regina. I try to sing Salve Regina every night before I go to sleep.

Do you have a favourite piece of Scripture?
It depends again. I love the Gospel of St John, particularly, Chapter 1:1-14.

Other than your work, which I know you’ve very passionate about, what brings you joy?
It’s a combination of many things—I could write a book about those moments. I like to go hiking in Los Angeles. There’s a mountain I climb and you can see the entire view of Los Angeles from the top. I feel free, and breathe in the fresh air. It’s a great work out.
I like to enjoy a cup of great coffee, chocolate gives me a lot of joy, reading a book on the life of a saint also brings me a lot of joy because it inspires me and challenges me to live a life of virtue.
I like to play tennis with friends, listen to music in my house by myself, and I’m from Mexico so I like to cook. I have the fire, I put on a little music, candles, and then cook. It’s like therapy for me. I enjoy dinner parties with friends—I invite friends to my house, I cook and serve them—we have good wine, good food and chocolate. It’s those little things. It’s important to have those moments of recreation, so that we can work hard the next day. St Thomas Aquinas speaks of this ‘wholesome recreation’ or ‘eutrapelia’.

What would you most like to be remembered for?
Someone that was just trying, as best as he could, to do God’s will. Trying! But that’s for him to judge. But at least I’m trying to work hard, to do my best, and with an open heart. We’re not alone, God will carry us.

At the completion of the interview and photo shoot, while walking along the street, there was one final question I had for Eduardo! ... 'Do you know how to change a flat tyre?' 
Fortunately, the answer for me was a resounding: 'C'mon! Let's do it!'. I appreciate your enthusiasm and willingness to help Eduardo (and Tomas).

Photographs copyright 2013 Fiona Basile, Kairos Catholic Journal, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne

Photos above:  (1) Eduardo enjoys "a fantastic coffee" in a local Melbourne cafe; (2) Eduardo in one of Melbourne's many alleyways; (3) Eduardo stands in front of the beautiful St Patrick's Cathedral, East Melbourne; (4) Eduardo with Kairos Catholic Journal's photo-journalist Fiona Basile; (4) Eduardo with his yummy coffee at a local East Melbourne cafe; (5) Cafe owner Joseph with Eduardo and the "fantastic" coffee beans ... although Joseph insists it's a combination of things that makes a great coffee!; (6) Eduardo; (7) Tomas gets in on the photography action; (8) Tomas and Eduardo changing the flat tyre on Fiona's car.
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF MELBOURNE

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