About This Film
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 sometimes 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 deep and abiding faith, an exuberate style of preaching, and a powerful gift for youth ministry.
On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans as one of the most devastating and costly natural disasters in U.S. history that catastrophically flooded levee systems. Father Tony, 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, Father Tony snuck back into the city and saw first-hand the heart-breaking destruction saying New Orleans looked like a “ghost town after a bomb hit”. The film is a collective and quite touching portrait of Father Tony’s response to the Archbishop’s plan to close his church; the historically-rich Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church on St. Roch Street – he fights to keep it open to rebuild his faith community.
Cameras follow him post-Katrina as a high school teacher, an advisor, and as a Pastor for the NFL New Orleans Saints presiding Mass for players the night before home games. A huge Saints fan since childhood, he celebrated their Super Bowl Championship in 2010, a real boost to the city’s morale.
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.
Mardi Gras is a major part of Father Tony’s Creole 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 Ricard 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.
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.
Ultimately, it’s an emotionally uplifting story about an unconventional priest’s ability to arise, rebuild, and re-emerge stronger after life’s challenges. The film will leave viewers with a feeling like someone drew back a curtain to let some light in.