Half a million people attended the canonisation of Mother Teresa at the Vatican on Sunday, 4 September 2016 in a ceremony transmitted live to her adopted home of Kolkata and Catholic audiences worldwide. For Pope Francis, Mother Teresa (henceforth known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta) put into action his ideal for the church to be a merciful “field hospital” for the poorest of the poor both materially and spiritually.
While the subject of her intentions about charity remains questionable, there is no doubt her devotion to work has inspired countless filmmakers to chronicle her life. Here are a few films about Mother Teresa that stand out:
The Letters (2014)
The Letters is one of the more recent biopics that traces Mother Teresa's life in Kolkata and documents her correspondence with her spiritual guide, Father Celeste Van Exem. The film is based on the collection of her correspondence with Father Celeste Van Exem, which was made public in 2007.
We see Mother Teresa as a young nun struggling to have faith in her religion in the film with Juliet Stevenson playing the lead. Indian actors like Tilottama Shome and Vijay Maurya have minor roles in the film.
Hell's Angel (1994)
"Give a man a reputation of an early riser and that man can sleep till noon, said Mark Twain. "
"How does the reputation of Holy Mother Teresa look if we switch off Malcolm Muggeridge's (he made a film on her) kind words for a minute." says Christopher Hitchens.
Hell’s Angels, a documentary by British journalist Christopher Hitchens criticises Mother Teresa’s view of charity. The documentary drew heavily from the account of Aroup Chatterjee, an Indian-born British writer who had worked briefly in one of Teresa’s charitable homes (and who is now opposing her canonisation). Chatterjee listed a whole bunch of criticisms against her and pointed to her relationships with dubious figures around the world (Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier and scandal-hit Charles Keating are cases in point).
“She may or may not comfort the afflicted, but she has never been known to afflict the comfortable,” Hitchens says at one point in the documentary. Hitchens also argued that Mother Teresa was more interested in converting people into her religion rather than curing them.
Something Beautiful for God (1969)
The first ever documentation of Mother Teresa's work was carried out in 1969 when BBC decided to make a documentary on the saint, anchored by Malcolm Muggeridge and directed by famous documentary filmmaker Peter Chafer.
Muggeridge shows the extent of Mother Teresa's charitable work with Missionaries of Charity, the organisation she founded in 1950. The film made her internationally famous.
Muggeridge was so much in awe with Mother Teresa's work that he went on to write a book about her with the same name which was published in 1972.
Mother Teresa and Her World (1979)
This is the second documentary to be made on the saint. The documentary also inspired Shigeki Chiba to change his life and become a Catholic.
Speaking about the reason of making the film, Chiba says “First I wanted to give the story of Mother Teresa to the Japanese (then) I wanted to have the same values she had and they came from Catholicism,” said Shigeki in an article in the Catholic news website UCA news. “She had much humour and joy. She would be saintly when in the church praying, but when she was helping she was like any other person, laughing and talking.”
Chiba went on to make two other films Mother Teresa’s Visit to Japan (1981) and Living With Mother Teresa (2010) through the years.
Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor (1997)
The film is notable because it was commissioned quickly after Mother Teresa's sudden death on 5 September 1997.
Geraldine Chaplin, Charlie Chaplin's daughter, plays the role of the saint in this biopic. The film takes us to Kolkata in the 1940s when Mother Teresa decides to leave her convent to devote her life to caring for the poorest of the poor.