The producer and co-writer of the award-winning pro-life movie Bella, Leo Severino, was in Ontario Feb. 14-16 to give a preview to select groups before the movie is officially released in Canada. He was originally invited to speak at the fourth annual Culture of Life Student Leadership Conference in Hamilton, but that grew from just a one-day engagement to three days of pre-screenings and speaking appearances.

On Valentine’s Day, Bella was shown to a sold-out audience of 300 at Hamilton’s Nicholas Mancini Centre, hosted by Hamilton Right to Life. The following day, Severino screened the film and spoke to 180 students from the Hamilton and Halton Catholic District school boards, plus other student representatives from all over the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, at the leadership conference. He addressed the power of the media and the question of the true purpose of life. Then Severino, with his wife and unborn child, headed up to Markham to show the movie to another packed house, hosted by the Right to Life Association of Toronto and Area. It also held an event at Canada Christian College.

The question on everyone’s mind was: when will Bella be released in Canada? Although Severino couldn’t answer that with 100 per cent certainty, he could say that the hope is to have it released by the end of March or beginning of April. His advice to those who want to help get it into Canada was for everyone to contact their local major theatre and tell the manager/bookings representative there they want to see Bella and know of many other friends who want to see it, too. As well, he encouraged supporters to get others to make similar calls and create a grassroots demand for the film.

“A small film like this will not have a lot of publicity or ads on television or that sort of thing,” he said. “It’s really important to get people mobilized for opening weekend. If it’s strong on opening weekend, it will expand into a lot of theatres.”

He explained that despite winning the People’s Choice Award at the 2006 Toronto Film Festival and other accolades, Bella was originally put into only 100 theatres on release in the U.S. Due to the overwhelming success of its first week, however, it eventually made its way into almost 500 theatres.

“It’s been blowing away expectations for such a tiny film on such a small budget,” said Severino, noting that it has been receiving rave audience reviews., for example, ranked the film third among all releases in 2007, while gave the movie a remarkable 96 per cent approval rating.

Despite that success, even when it is released in Canada, it may be in only 20 theatres to begin with. Severino said it is up to the film’s supporters to spread the word and ensure ticket sales are high.

“The best thing is to pool resources, buy advance tickets for the film … The more screenings are sold out, the more screenings they give us.”

He noted the film has already dissuaded 13 women from going through with scheduled abortion appointments and has the potential “to touch many hearts and to transform, if not save, many lives” when it screens in Canada.

“Plato said if he had to choose between art and politics to govern a nation, he would choose art,” said Severino. “Art has the ability to touch and inspire people’s hearts and change them and, therefore, how they think, live and behave.”

For more information on the movie: