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A Black Creole Priest from the 8th Ward of New Orleans

Viewers Get a Fresh Perspective on the Catholic Priesthood as Cameras Follow a Man Who Brought Hope to His Community and Inspired a Nation

REDLANDS, CA — Filmmaker Cynthia Capen tells an inspirational story of a Black Creole Catholic Priest in the poor crime-ridden 8th Ward of New Orleans. Viewers will get an intimate glimpse of Father Tony Ricard’s unshakeable faith during the most difficult challenge of his priesthood – the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In recent years, the image of the Catholic Priest has been blurred with scandals. This documentary film offers a fresh perspective on this millennial old vocation by delving into the life of a man with an exuberate style of preaching, powerful gift for youth ministry, and deep and abiding faith.

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as one of the most deadly and costly natural disasters in U.S. history which catastrophically flooded the levee system. Father Tony, friends, family and parishioners responded to the city-wide evacuation declared by Mayor Ray Nagin and caravanned to northern Louisiana. After spending 77 days away from home, he sneaks back into the city and experiences first-hand the heartbreaking destruction of homes and property referring to New Orleans as a “war zone” after a bomb hit.”

The film is a collective and quite touching portrait of Father Tony’s response to New Orleans’ Archbishop Hughes’s plan to close his church; the historically-rich Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church on St. Roch Street, and his struggles to keep it open and rebuild his faith community. Cameras follow him post-Katrina as a high school teacher, an advisor to storm survivors, and as a Pastor for the NFL New Orleans Saints presiding Mass during football season for players the night before home games. The Saints ultimately win Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, a real boost to the city’s morale. “I was completely blown away when Cynthia Capen first approached me about producing a documentary film about my life”, said Father Tony Ricard. “I hope that this film will inspire others to think about following God’s plans for them. I’m blessed to be a Roman Catholic Priest, and I know that the Priesthood is where God needs me to be. My prayer is that others too will be inspired to find their place in God’s plans.”

The film captures Father Tony as a dynamic national keynote speaker to 20,000 teenagers at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio where he delivered a quite-touching talk “We Still Believe”- a testimony of faith after the storm. Viewers will see him do the ‘Electric Slide on stage with hurricane-surviving teens from the Gulf Coast region celebrating Second Line style with colorful umbrella’s and beads. Thousands are on their feet as the inspirational groovy song, “I’ll Take You There” by BeBe & CeCe Winans plays in the packed arena. Personal and emotional elements backstage unfold when Father Tony’s brother Kevin, a street-car driver from New Orleans, witnesses his little brother preach to a massive crowd for the first time.

Father Tony has been a Catholic Priest for over 17 years, prior to that he was a teacher for the New Orleans Public School System. He graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and holds two Master Degrees from Xavier University’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies and Notre Dame Seminary. For 27 years he has served as Camp Director for a summer camp for children with Cystic Fibrosis, chronic asthma and other pulmonary diseases. The documentary follows him to camp and reveals his true gift and joy – working with children.

Mardi Gras is a major part of Father Tony’s heritage growing up in Uptown New Orleans. The film shows his Mardi Gras Mass where Grammy-Award winning artist, and church parishioner, Aaron Neville plays piano and sings with the choir. Later, everyone attends the Mardi Gras parade, a family tradition. Viewers will hear intimate interviews from his recovered alcoholic father, his cherished mother who struggles with a neurological disorder, family, friends, clergy, inspired teenagers, and his faithful flock.

The Executive Producer of the documentary, Cynthia Capen also wrote and directed the film. “I can’t even begin to state what an amazing journey it’s been trailing Father Tony for the past five-plus years, not only in New Orleans, but around the country” said Capen. “I got a ‘front pew seat to witness his faith-filled lifestyle and his true gift of youth ministry. I was also privileged to watch the post-Katrina comeback of the amazing City of New Orleans.” Capen was awarded a grant from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation for her film following their criteria “To promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, culture and heritage of communities in New Orleans.” Sponsors of the film include; Amtrak Trains, Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans, Liberty Bank, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, and JEAC Travel. Ultimately, it’s an emotional and uplifting story about an unconventional man’s ability to arise, rebuild, and re-emerge stronger after surviving a tragedy. The documentary film leaves viewers with the feeling like drawing back a curtain to let the light in.

Father Tony Documentary Film Credits
Cynthia Capen – Executive Producer/Writer & Director For 5 years, independent documentary filmmaker Cynthia Capen and her camera crew followed and filmed the post-Katrina struggles and triumphs of Father Tony Ricard, a Black Creole Catholic Priest from the poor crime-ridden 8thWard of New Orleans. It’s an inspirational story where viewers will get an intimate glimpse of his unshakeable faith during the most difficult challenge of his priesthood – the destruction of his beloved city. Cynthia is an award-winning copywriter, television commercial producer, and a journalist. She started the documentary film, “Father Tony” after he visited her church in California and was intrigued with his infectious faith and exuberate style of preaching.

Cynthia left California and lived on Bourbon Street in New Orleans while producing most of the film and returned to Los Angeles for post-production. She was awarded a Community Partnership Grant in 2009 from The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation for her film following their criteria “To promote, preserve, perpetuate and encourage the music, culture and heritage of communities in Louisiana”. Cynthia is a member of the International Documentary Association, and the New Orleans Film Society. She resides in Redlands, California and has a grown-married daughter, Holly, son-in-law Ben, and first grandbaby, Stella Jean.

Produced by Dave Terman
Dave Terman is a film production consultant, and for over 20 years has worked intimately with almost every recognizable name in the film industry. Since 1997, Dave has worked in a variety of positions at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA. He is currently the Supervising Film Editor for Sony Pictures Creative Editorial. His musical skills and songwriting talents has contributed to the soundtracks of several files. Dave crew up in Ridgewood, New Jersey and Hector, New York and is a graduate of New York University. He lives in Orange County, California with his wife, Donna and their son Dylan.

Edited by Christopher Holmes
Christopher Holmes is an experienced film editor who has worked on many classic and blockbuster films including “Five Easy Pieces” starring Jack Nicholson, “The Natural” starring Robert Redford, “Donny Brasco” starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, and “Rocky II” with Sly Stone. He also cut “Cooley High”, “Car Wash”, “The Last Dragon”, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, and ”Staying Alive”. Often Chris has been brought into a number of films working with some of the most important actors and directors in the capacity of “film doctor”. He continues to work with both studio and independent filmmakers, using his experience and storytelling talents to help them realize their vision. Chris has six children and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Ewa, and a teenage son, Johan.

Michael Wichman – Associate Producer/Cameraman
Michael Wichman has loved the world of telecommunication since childhood creating movies using an old 8mm camera to produce stop-motion films, and building a low-power radio station in his bedroom. His professional career directing and producing began as a contracted Assistant Film Editor for the military, and then later worked for an ABC-TV affiliate first in master control, then in news and commercial production.

Michael currently works as a Media Production Specialist for a California University, and teaches an Advanced Media Production Course. He also owns a small Corporate Media Production Company producing TV spots, industrial videos, and radio commercials. Michael resides in Redlands, California with his wife, Elizabeth, daughter Laura, and Toby the dog.

Bjorn Jon Madrid – Art Director
Bjorn Jon Madrid is an award-winning graphic designer who has been recognized for his achievements by many organizations including the Inland Empire Ad Club and PRSA (Public Relations Society of America). His work includes logo design and corporate branding, outdoor advertising, book covers, photography, and corporate media presentations. Since 2005, Bjorn has been the lead Graphic Designer for a major healthcare company in Southern California. He is a graduate and Valedictorian of Platt College where he earned his degree in Graphic Design. Relentlessly fighting for a cure for Cancer, Bjorn donates much of his time and graphic talents as Chairperson for Redlands Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. He resides in Redlands, California with his wife Malinda, and their three children; Aaron, Cambria, and Ethan.

Leo Sacks – Creative Consultant
Leo Sacks has enjoyed a long and accomplished career as a record producer and journalist. He has produced over 250 compilations, remixes and new recordings for Sony BMG Legacy’s acclaimed Rhythm & Soul series. As a music producer, he supervised the critically acclaimed “Take A Look: Aretha Franklin Complete on Columbia,” a retrospective of the Queen’s gestating genius on 11 CDs and 1 DVD. Leo was also a first responder to Katrina as the producer of “Sing Me Back Home” by the New Orleans Social Club, which The Boston Globe called “a treatise in great American music. He has a forthcoming documentary film about New Orleans gospel icon Raymond Myles. From 1993 to 1999 he was a broadcast news writer and producer for Tom Brokaw at NBC Nightly News. Leo lives in New York with his wife, Beau and young son.

Andrew Zinnes – Documentary Film Consultant
Andrew Zinnes is a Los Angeles-based script reader who has worked for Paramount Pictures, Artisan, Norman Lear, USA Network, and Scriptapalooza. He is the author of the popular industry books, The Documentary Film Makers Handbook, and The Guerilla Film Makers Handbook. Andrew teaches The Documentary Filmmakers Course in the U.S. and in London, and does private consultations for documentary writers and directories. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Genevieve and their daughter. For more information on the Father Tony Documentary go to www.fathertonyfilm.com.

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