Below is information on the movie DVD and some of the press that has been received for the Gimme Shelter movie, inspired by Kathy DiFiore's work.
May, 2014 (email to Kathy DiFiore) -- dear Kathy, i am watching a movie that I swear you are in. it's about a homeless pregnant teen. she finds shelter at a place like yours with your story in it. the founder of the movie shelter is Kathy. she met mother Teresa and started the shelter in her own home over 20 years ago. it's your story. the name of the movie is Gimme Shelter. you come in half way through. I haven't even finished watching it. they even stuff envelopes for donations. the house kinda looks like yours. i'm wondering if you have seen it? the girls even go to churches like we did. well i never did but i remember the other girls going. IT IS YOU!!!!!!!!!!! they just said your name. WOW what are the odds i would rent this movie. the movie is good so far. i am so WOWED right now. still watching the movie. congrats to you for getting your story out there. some great actors in the movie. were you on set? WOW!!!! there must be a reason i am watching this. i think i got it. my son who i had at your shelter just moved home after being gone for 2 years. He is now 18 years old. i needed the reminder of where i have been and where i don't want him to go. being homeless was the worst feeling. being unwanted. i will not let that happen to someone i love. weird i got this movie. it was the last one on shelf of new releases. God works in mysterious ways. Jordon's b-day was just may 21st. the day i rented the movie. i just put it in this morning. it's now over due. I'm am in just so much shock. memories are flooding back. thank you!!!! i hope you have a wonderful day. I know I am so far.God bless!!!!!Samantha ps:I just saw you in movie. I had to pause and show my son the woman who saved his life. i wonder how many other mothers will see this and you? you look exactly the same. Great!!! James Earl Jones, WOW. were any of the moms real shelter moms? I am still in awe!!!Samantha
Fr. Dave Dwyer (FDD): And welcome back to Conversation With Cardinal Dolan.
FDD: Let's take a look at the other side of the issue, those mothers… mothers to be… who are considering and who are somehow helped by the church. We're joined now by a guest who is the subject of the new film called Gimme Shelter. She's the founder of Several Sources Shelter, Kathy DiFiore. Welcome to Conversation With Cardinal Dolan.
Kathy DiFiore (KDF): Thank you so much. It's such an honor to be here with you today.
Cardinal Dolan (CD): Kathy, you got it backwards. It's an honor for us to have you. Cardinal Dolan here. I was so thrilled to meet you, when was it, a couple of weeks ago.... no, it was before Christmas. We had our Inner City Catholic School Scholarship Foundation. You were there, because you and I share mutual and good friends, Tony and Christie de Nicola, so I was thrilled to meet you... because I had heard such acclaim.. right.. about your work. Help us out here, Kathy. Sometimes we Pro-Lifers are caricatured as being anti-everything, more than Pro-Life, and that if we really believed what we said, we would be giving women with troubled pregnancies creative, life-giving alternatives. You, of all people, can tell us how unfair that caricature is. Correct?
KDF: Yes, the secret… the best kept secret, is that there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of Kathy DiFiore's all over the country. I have a list of over 550 shelters by state on our website, lifecall.org. And then, there are over 2,000 Crisis Pregnancy Centers on that same website. So there are... I don't even know how many... a hundred thousand people out there helping these young women; providing them with food, clothing, shelters, all the spiritual support that they need to choose life for their preborn. But this is a secret. Now the movie, Gimme Shelter, is helping to make the secret be known by people throughout the country.
CD: Way to go. Tell us a little about the shelter program. I'm so inspired by it. This is not... again, another caricature of us, Kathy... we like to yell and scream and yell at women not to have abortions but we don't embrace them. We don't shelter them. We don't help them. You're a living counter-example of that. Tell us about your shelter program.
KDF: Well, our shelter program.. first thing is, they're private homes. We have 4 of them. They're in quiet, residential neighborhoods. I'll give you an example. We have a benefactor that pays for their college education. They don't have loans to pay. They have day care. We have Housemothers that help them through all different types of adversity. We have a psychologist that works with them on their problems. They're like our daughters. Our relationships are long lasting. I know some women that were in my program 25 years ago and they still stay in touch. One of them serves on our Board of Directors. So we become like an extended family to them. And they make our lives better, Cardinal. You know, when I look at these young women and their children that are now going to college… one was held by Mother Teresa, and she said to me.. I'm doing a book/finished a book.. when I interviewed Liza, she said, "Kathy, do you think some of Mother Teresa might have rubbed off on me?".
KDF: She's 25 years old, so here's the legacy of this Pro-Life work. It's one of love. I want to change the name from Pro-Life to Pro-Love. What do you think?
CD: I like it. You know, Fr. Dave and I were recalling a Pro-Life march in Albany last year and being very moved by a sign saying, "Let's love both the baby and the mother". So there's your Pro-Love. Kathy… we're talking with Kathy DiFiore, the Founder of Several Sources Shelters, the subject of the wonderful new movie, Gimme Shelter. Kathy, you yourself… how do you get the women? How do they find out about you? How do you come in contact with them?
KDF: Well... we do have a mobile sonogram unit outside one of the abortion clinics in Englewood, New Jersey. Some of them are actually walking into the abortion clinic. We have sidewalk counselors and they can just walk across the street and they can see their babies. And I can tell you... 100% of women in our little sonogram unit… once they hear that heartbeat and see their baby... you know they need us.. and sometimes they need a place to live, and we have a hotline.. we've been doing this for 33 years, so you can imagine how many people call, whether it's a High School principal or guidance counselor, an Aunt or a friend of a friend.. somebody that was in our program. You know, we're on the internet.. oh my God.. I would say at least 70% of the young ladies that come to us come through the internet.
CD: Hmmm. You yourself... you, right out of college, you worked on Wall Street and then what.. what triggered this, uh.. this magnificent solicitude for women struggling to keep their babies? What triggered it in you on Wall Street, Kathy?
KDF: Good question, Cardinal. It was… I was wonderfully, wonderfully, wonderfully raised by my parents and my grandmother. I've always been a Catholic and my faith was just paramount to my life, but I made a bad choice in husbands. And,... the man was abusive and I stuck it out for about 8 years and, the next thing you know, one day I just said, "I can't do this anymore... and I picked up my purse and, with the clothes on my back, I walked out. And I became homeless… I would rather be homeless than have that in my life any longer. And, it was my faith.. that... being homeless... I still had dignity, because I had God. He never left my side. And, finally, I got a job and I ended up getting this house... this little tiny house in New Jersey. And I prayed the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi….
KDF: And that prayer gave me the strength to open up a home… my home… to young women and their babies... and from there God just blessed and blessed and blessed the work and 33 years later... now I have 4 homes, and a daytime shelter for homeless women in Newark, and I'm ready to do more if you have it for me.
CD: You'd be the first person I called, Kathy. You… your noble work… again, we're with.. we're honored on this day, before the March For Life, to have Kathy DiFiore, the Founder of Several Sources Shelters and the new movie, Gimme Shelter, and it’s all about her... well worth seeing. Kathy, you have NOT been free from harassment. We expect setbacks. We expect adversity. We... you and I... people of faith... call that The Cross. But, you've also gotten harassment from the state haven't you? Fined and… and what happened? They said you were running an illegal boarding house or what was it?
KDF: Yeah... back in 1984, I'd been working for 3 years with the young mothers and I got a $10,000 fine. I didn't know that according to state law I was running an unlicensed boarding house... and this was terrible. And I got state people to help pass a bill... they called it the DiFiore Bill... that would exempt our homes and other homes. But then, the Governor sent a letter to me saying that he was going to veto the legislation, and I cried that night. I'd seen Mother Teresa on TV and she was with John Cardinal O'Connor... she was opening up an AIDS hospice on Christopher St.. In the morning, when I was saying my prayers, I heard a little voice say, "Contact Mother Teresa". And I thought I was going crazy. I thought, I’d seen her on TV... that’s why I heard the voice. But then, I went down for a cup of tea and I heard a screaming voice in my head saying, "Contact Mother Teresa". Within 4 phone calls… I'd met a man at the March For Life named Drew DeKorski. Drew had been with Mother Teresa the night before. He volunteered in her soup kitchen. And he got her on the phone. She said she would help me and she wrote a letter to the Governor. Three times in the letter she said, "I beg you not to veto this legislation for people who want to help these young mothers have their babies". Well, of course, he was up for re-election... the headlines were: Kean vs. Mother Teresa.. and you know what the Governor did? He signed the bill into law.
CD: Thanks be to God!
FDD: Wow! David & Goliath!
CD: I wish Mother Teresa were still around today, because there are still people that are having trouble!
KDF: She's around... she's around.
CD: You bet she is, Kathy. Now tell me. Have you spread beyond New Jersey? The shelter movement?
KDF: Well, we're all around the globe, really. The best kept secret... we have a crisis pregnancy center in the Ukraine... a crisis pregnancy center in Uganda. And I just wait to see what God puts in front of me. When I die and I get judged, I never want Him to say I left something unturned. And these babies… their mothers call... they see us on the internet and they ask for help and we try to help them out. So we start seeds planted in different places around the globe. But we're all over the United States. We have a girl living with us now that's from California. There were no open beds in California. A benefactor paid for her to come and live in New Jersey. One from Florida… another benefactor… you know, we don't want them to... you know... go to a clinic and abort their baby.
CD: And let's applaud, too, these brave people that work with you in offering these loving, warm homes. This isn't an institution you're talking about.
CD: I think.. from the movie, it dawned on me that really the charisma is that these troubled women become part of a warm loving family.
CD: It's not an institution. They're in somebody's home. They make friendships and establish a solidarity that lasts them forever. Kathy, we love you. We thank you. You're an inspiration to us on this day before the national recommitment to Pro-Life. Once again, give us how people can get in touch with you.
KDF: Two things. First, they gotta go see the movie, Cardinal. www.gimmeshelterthemovie.com Type in your zip code and you'll find where it's playing close to you and bring a lot of young people. We need it to be successful this weekend and next weekend so that it can grow around the country. [Ed. note- the movie is no longer in theatres & will be released on DVD April 29, 2014] Second, my website is severalsources.net... OK?... And that’s where you can get a kit on How to Open a Shelter.
CD: There you go.
KDF: We need more shelters.
CD: You bet we do. We need more Kathy DiFiore's. Was your role really played by Beyonce? I had heard that.
LAUGHTER and CHATTER
CD: Keep up the good work.
KDF: You better have me back.
CD: You’re on.
FDD: The movie is called Gimme Shelter. Check out the website. Also lifecall.org if you know someone who is considering an abortion or considering... discerning, having a child... a great resource there. And 1-800-NO ABORT.
Filmmaker Ronald Krauss sees connection with Pope Francis' warnings about “a throwaway culture”
The movie, Gimme Shelter (www.gimmeshelterthemovie.com) which opens in theaters tomorrow, January 24th, features a rising young star, the talents of a gifted director/writer, and a story based on inspiring true events. The star is actress (and singer) Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical series), the director/writer is Ronald Krauss (Amexica, Puppies for Sale), and the story is rooted in the work and experience of Kathy DiFiore, founder of Several Sources Shelters. The film depicts the struggles and eventual redemption of Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Hudgens), a homeless and pregnant teen. Having run away from her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) and spurned by her white collar father (Brendan Fraser), she eventually meets a caring stranger (James Earl Jones), who introduces her to a shelter for homeless teenagers.
The movie has been praised by several prominent pro-life leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who described Gimme Shelter as a “moving film with an uplifting message of hope and the dignity of human life—and the fact that it is based on real people and events makes it all the more compelling. I hope that this film finds a wide audience—particularly among teens and young adults!”
I spoke by phone recently with both Kathy DiFiore and Ronald Krauss, and the passion of both for helping troubled youths and building a culture of life was obvious. Gimme Shelter, Krauss said, “was 33 years in the making”, a reference to DiFiore establishing her first shelter in 1981. He had heard about Kathy's work through various contacts, and then he learned that her first shelter was less than two miles from his brother's house in New Jersey. “I was immediately intrigued,” Krauss says. “I arranged to visit one of her shelters and I was awed by what I saw.” He visited and met Kathy, discovering a devoted woman who was humble and free of any interest in the spotlight.
Krauss was immediately moved by what he witnessed at the shelter. “I was especially inspired by a couple of the girls” as he learned about their pasts and their struggles. “This movie,” he explains, “is about the new face of homelessness: young women, mostly teens, who are often single mothers.”
He talked with Kathy about a possible documentary. True to form, she didn't want it to be about her, but she did have an idea: making a film focusing on the girls and the shelters. Krauss began working on a script, spending time in shelters getting to know the people there and hearing their stories. He eventually spent a year visiting shelters, recording nearly 200 hours of interview with various young women.
“I'm just one link in the chain”, Krauss insists about the making of Gimme Shelter. The word he kept coming back to is “selflessly”: helping those who have no other means of support and assistance. In order to insure the film's authenticity, Krauss had several of the girls help in the writing process, scheduling “script nights” where they would read some of the script while sharing their thoughts about the story line. “They helped me find the reality of their lives,” Krauss says about the process. “They shared their deepest emotions about what it is to be homeless, to not know where you’re going to be tomorrow.”
Krauss never thought he could cast an established Hollywood actress in the lead role, and planned to cast an unknown. But after meeting with Hudgens, he changed his mind. He noted her hunger for a different role; she wanted to challenge herself as an actress and a person. And after Hudgens accepted the role, Krauss was taken back by her intense preparation. “She spent three weeks living in a shelter, she gained weight for the role, and she chopped off her hair. She really did become 'Apple', her character!” So much so, says Krauss, that he would call her “Apple,” not “Vanessa”, even off the set—“that's how much she became the character.” And that is what Hudgens was hoping to accomplish, having stated that it an “an opportunity to completely transform myself. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see myself. The story, which is based on the lives a several young women who stayed at the shelter, is completely terrifying, which was all the more reason why I wanted to do it.”
DiFiore began sheltering several young pregnant women in her home, free of charge, in 1984. Soon thereafter, the state of New Jersey fined her $10,000 for running an illegal boarding home. Her story and her work gained attention in the media, and eventually Sen. Gerald Cardinale sponsored a bill exempting non-profit groups from the legislation. When it appeared that the bill would be vetoed, DiFiore had the idea of contacting Mother Teresa to see if she could help. But she thought the idea was unrealistic—until the next day she “heard a loud voice telling me: call Mother Teresa!” She knew a man who worked in Mother Teresa's soup kitchen, so she called him. His wife answered and told Kathy that her husband had just spoken with Mother Teresa the night before. After a few calls, she got in touch with Mother Teresa, who worked to help her get rid of the fine and to persuade lawmakers to pass the bill.
DiFiore has written a soon-to-be-published book, Gimme Love, Gimme Hope, Gimme Shelter, featuring stories about women like Apple, as well her stories about Mother Teresa and others.
As DiFiore continues her tireless work, Krauss hopes Gimme Shelter will open eyes and hearts. “This is a crucial movie for a crucial time,” he says, “It provides a window into our society. These homeless women are not outcasts; they could be anyone.” The movie, he reflects, will means different things to different viewers, depending on where they are coming from and what their own experiences are. “This is not just a movie; it is a movement to change the culture.”
Krauss sees a strong connection between the film and Pope Francis' warnings about “a throwaway culture” and a “consumerist” mentality that is focused on things rather than on people. He hopes that Francis can see the film as it echoes his messages about the poor, needy. “The Prayer of St. Francis is in the movie,” he says, “and that was shot before Francis was elected.”
What happens when a teenager who came into the world as an unplanned teenage pregnancy ends up with an unplanned pregnancy of her own? Will she bend to all the “helpful” insistence that she needs to exercise her “right to choose” before she is, as one callous presidential contender put it, “punished with a baby”?
This is the plot of “Gimme Shelter,” a new movie that departs from the feminist pack mentality of Hollywood. Agnes “Apple” Bailey -- played in a breakout role by “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens -- looks like a poster child for Planned Parenthood at the film’s beginning: sixteen years old, down and out after living in a series of foster homes, and now living with a drug-addicted mother who sometimes beats her.
As the story begins, she walks out on her mother and goes hunting for her father, who is now a wealthy stockbroker. She asks her father, who has not seen her since she was a baby, for a place to stay temporarily. When she discovers she is pregnant, her father’s wife drives her to the abortion clinic. It is there that she simply cannot bring herself to accept the “choice” that her parents avoided and made her (fairly miserable) life possible.
Women who choose abortion can easily rationalize about the miserable lives their children might have lived. Teenage girls in this crisis can easily see a baby as an almost life-ending event – but it’s possible to see even bad choices turn into promising lives. It’s possible to squeeze the lemons and make a terrific lemonade.
It’s amazing that this film has been made, and more amazing that it’s studded with stars -- not only Hudgens, but Rosario Dawson as her mother, Brendan Fraser as her father, and James Earl Jones as a friendly and patient Catholic priest. (How many of those have we seen in the movies lately?)
After Agnes crashes a potential abuser’s car and ends up in the hospital, she meets Father Frank. With the childhood that she’s endured, it’s understandable that Agnes isn’t the most receptive prospect for a God-loves-you message. But she agrees to move into a home for unwed mothers that can help her have her baby. The journey will not be easy – her drug-addict mother wants to pull her out of the home – but in the shelter, Agnes finally finds a home -- with strangers who are in the same jam that she’s in.
Inspired by the real-life story of Kathy DiFiore, the founder of Several Sources Shelters, writer and director Ronald Krauss wrote his original screenplay while spending a year in a shelter for pregnant teens, and based it on the lives of several of the shelter mothers.
Krauss wasn’t the only one who was inspired. Brendan Fraser asked to be in the movie after reading the script and spent time in the shelters with the mothers and the babies. On the last day of shooting, Krauss said Fraser “quietly told Kathy that he was donating his salary to the shelter, so he actually did the movie for nothing. It was a complete surprise to all of us.”
The movie critics will probably see this film as a preachy pro-life movie, but it should be remembered that some of these critics believe deeply that abortion is one of America’s greatest liberties. Avoiding abortion is like avoiding reality.
Washington Post critic Ann Hornaday bitterly complained a few years back that movies like “Knocked Up” and “Waitress” cheated American womanhood by failing to ponder and explicitly cherish the A-word: “It’s a setup that has some viewers, especially women who came of age in a post-Roe v. Wade America, wondering just what world these movies are living in.” She accused the film-makers of “moral hypocrisy.”
It’s odd that pro-abortion movie critics might dismiss “Gimme Shelter” as preachy when they don’t oppose sermonizing in the movies. They just oppose the sermon of life. For example, Hornaday loved “After Tiller,” a documentary sermonizing about the great hearts and deeds of late-term abortionists. The doctors “emerge as thoughtful and dedicated” and the women who enter their clinics are lauded as “the world’s experts in their own lives.”
After watching "Gimme Shelter," it's quite obvious that the people who run these shelters for unwed mothers are thoughtful and dedicated, and why wouldn't the women who enter their shelters also be hailed by feminists as experts on their own lives? It's refreshing that we can go to the cineplex and exercise the right to choose a movie that doesn't bow to the conventional "wisdom" of feminism when it comes to teenagers in trouble. It shows there really are people out there to give hope to the hopeless -- all of the hopeless.
Hollywood better be careful if it values its ability to insult and alienate conservative Americans. On the heels of the implicitly patriotic and plainly pro-military “Lone Survivor” comes an even less likely studio offering. “Gimme Shelter” will be out in wide release and boasts an A-list cast – and it’s the story of a young girl risking everything to save her unborn baby.
The Ronald Krauss film follows pregnant teenager “Apple” (Vanessa Hudgens) as she flees her abusive mother (Rosario Dawson) only to face rejection from her Wall Street father (Brendan Fraser) and find herself alone and desperate on the streets. Apple's luck changes when she encounters a kind hearted stranger (James Earl Jones) who guides her to a shelter for girls fighting to save their lives – and the lives growing within them.
Poised to be a game changer in the abortion debate, “Gimme Shelter,” is set coming out in theaters January 24. In addition to big Hollywood names Hudgens, Dawson, Fraser and Jones, the film boasts stars Stephanie Szostak, Emily Meade, and Ann Dowd.
Based on a true story, the film showed the gritty reality many pregnant teenage girls face and the mainstream culture tries to hide. The film drew inspiration from Kathy DiFiore, founder of Several Sources Shelters for young pregnant women. DiFiore, recognized by several U.S. presidents as well as Mother Teresa for her work, allowed the filmmaker Krauss to visit her shelter.
While there, Krauss found his motivation. “When I’d only been there a short time, I saw a young girl standing in front of the shelter,” Krauss said. Despite 18-degree weather, she had “walked about 25 miles to get there, with no coat and three months pregnant.” He let her in, he continued, and, “When she heard there was room for her, she grabbed me and hugged me so hard she almost knocked me over.”
“That hug,” he emphasized, “was the inspiration for the movie.”
Krauss never forgot the connection between his film and reality, inviting the shelter’s girls and their babies to star in his movie as well as influence the script and casting.
The big name stars appeared just as connected to their roles. As for the lead, Hudgens emphasized, “It was an opportunity to completely transform myself.” She continued, “The story, which is based on the lives of several young women who stayed at the shelter, is completely terrifying, which was all the more reason why I wanted to do it.”
Fraser donated his entire salary to the shelter while Dawson admitted, “You don’t have to be a teenage mom to connect to this. It’s about finding a space where you can have trust and faith and belief in yourself. It’s really a journey of discovery.”
Recommended for Ages 12 and over
Based on a true story centering on 16-year-old Agnes "Apple" Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens), Gimme Shelter uncovers the struggle for survival and the hope of redemption through the harsh realities of life on the streets. As a pregnant teenager, Apple's journey sends her into a perilous struggle until she finds salvation in a suburban shelter for homeless teens. With provisions of unprecedented comfort, a collective sisterhood connection and female empowerment, the shelter inspires Apple to break the shackles of her past and inspires her to embrace the future with clarity, maturity and hope not only for herself but her unborn child.
This movie offers hope! It is based on a true story and features knock out performances by Vanessa Hudgens as Agnes "Apple" Bailey, Ann Dowd as Kathy, the director of the home for pregnant teen girls, Brendan Fraser as Apple's dad Tom, Rosario Dawson as Apple's selfish mother June, and James Earl Jones as the kind priest, Frank McCarthy. The cast is so good they had to be mentioned. The fact this movie is based on true events make it even more remarkable.
Apple is living with her mother who calls her names and physically abuses her. She wants her to stay for her check which is paid monthly by the state. Apple leaves home and heads for her father's place, the father she has never met. She tracks him down but when he and her stepmother learn she is pregnant, they encourage her to have an abortion. Apple goes to the clinic but as she continues to look at the Ultrasound images of her baby, she can't go through with it and flees. A while later she winds up in the hospital, after praying for God's help. A kindly priest, Father McCarthy, visits her and she tells him that she ended up there after asking God for help. "Maybe this is where He intended you to be" he tells her. He tells her of a home for pregnant teen girls that will help her. She goes there and it is a life changing event as the Director, Kathy, helps her and refuses to let her mother take her away after the mother shows up and slaps her while she is there.
Apple turns her life around, attends church, and has her baby. She slowly develops a relationship with her father, who tells her that Hope, Apple's baby, was born a day before his birthday. This movie is inspirational and shows that change is possible in one's life. It is a gritty and realistic movie but shows that positive things can happen when people endure and trust God. It also demonstrates that life is to be cherished. We are very pleased to award this film our Dove "Family-Approved" Seal for ages twelve plus. Watching this movie is a great experience.
Content & Description
Sex: A girl has a child out of wedlock but turns her life around; a man approaches a teen girl and comes across like a pimp; young pregnant girls stay at a home with care mothers and they support each other.
Language: OMG-2; H-1; Crap-1; A-1; D-1; B*tch-2; Whore-1; Sl*t-1
Violence: Woman slaps girl and slaps other woman; cab driver lightly kicks girl on the ground; woman with razor in mouth cuts daughter on cheek but she is all right; girl gets in accident in truck.
Drugs: Smoking and drinking beer; it's mentioned that a few characters have abused drugs.
Nudity: Cleavage; shirtless guy.
Other: Girl with tattoo and ring in her nose and mouth; girl tries to steal taxi cab and does steal a truck from a man who wants to be her pimp but girl turns her life around; girl vomits; talk of girl having an abortion but she does not; girl tells priest that God never cared about her and she has a few moments of anger toward God but she changes during the course of the movie; girl tells mother she hates her but she is angry because her mother has abused her.
Gimme Shelter is the most moving film I’ve seen all year.
To be fair, it is only January, but in all honesty, I think it stands a fair chance at keeping that title. Based on a heart wrenching true story, Gimme Shelter follows pregnant, 16-year old Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Vanessa Anne Hudgens), who runs away from an abusive home to face life alone on the streets. Apple’s journey pushes her to the edge of survival, until she finds new hope in a shelter for homeless, single mothers.
Thanks to Movie to Movement, I was able to see an advance screening of the film, which has a limited release on Jan. 24.
What’s the High School Musical girl doing in a movie like this? I remembered thinking when I first saw the trailer. Hudgens, who prompted my major reservations going into the film, gave a surprising performance and has proven that she can bring gritty emotion to the table for more serious – even religious – roles. The film actually boasts an impressive lineup, with Brendan Fraser, Rosario Dawson, and James Earl Jones all starring as well.
This independent drama reached a level of realism and expression of the human spirit that is too often lacking in modern cinema. There were a number of fantastic movies I’ve enjoyed over the past twelve months:Gravity, Catching Fire, Star Trek, to name a few – all of which attained great depth and magnitude in their own ways – but there is something about the grit and grime of Gimme Shelter that quietly takes you where the blockbuster cannot tread.
When I think of the film students at JPCatholic, I think this is the kind of art they want to create. A film with power to change lives. A film that gently guides its audience toward the beauty of life and redemption and relationship. This is no “Fireproof” or “October Baby” here – I really don’t know what the religious views of the producers are.
It’s not a nice message that’s been awkwardly packaged into a story; it’s a great story, that happens to have a powerful message. While it contains quite a large dose of Catholic characters, context, and even dialogue, the film still somehow avoids sounding like a 2-hour sermon. Christianity is present, but it’s not the core of the story. Even the pro-life undercurrent, which will certainly be applauded by the conservative community (as it should be), is not the focal point of this story.
It’s simply the story of a girl. It’s about her troubled past, her broken present, and her frail crawl towards a hopeful future. It’s about finding family among complete strangers. It’s about the healing and support offered by an organization like this homeless shelter.
Which is another great reason to love this film: I wish everyone would see this movie if only to open their eyes to the immense amount of impact these shelters can have on real peoples’ lives.
The film certainly isn’t perfect, and I’m sure critics will find various flaws to pick apart. But any film that can make me tear up gets at least a few points in my book. As a moviegoer who gets easily distracted when watching films, Gimme Shelter was thoroughly engaging for me, both entertaining and inspiring. And though I can’t promise you the same experience, I will say I’m extremely glad there are films out there like this one.
“Last time I asked for God’s help, He put me here,” 16-year-old Apple Bailey angrily tells the priest visiting her in the hospital following a car accident.
“Perhaps you’re exactly where you’re meant to be,” the priest responds.
That exchange in the movie “Gimme Shelter” (in wide release on January 24) eventually leads to an epiphany for Apple (Vanessa Hudgens), who is homeless, pregnant, and struggling to escape from the grip of her abusive, drug-addicted mother (Rosario Dawson). Though she seeks help from the rich father (Brendan Fraser) she’s never met, he can’t fully accept her situation.
When a street thug threatens Apple, she steals a car and gets into the aforementioned accident. And though she can’t see it at the time, that seemingly-tragic event is what sets her on a course to find love and family in ways she’s never before experienced at a shelter run by Kathy DiFiore (Ann Dowd).
Where You’re Meant To Be
The idea of being “where you’re meant to be” could also apply to the story behind the making of the film. One day, someone asked filmmaker Ronald Krauss the fateful question, “Have you heard about this shelter that’s helping young women get off the streets?”
The shelter in question was Several Sources Shelters, created by Kathy DiFiore, a real-life person, not just a movie character (read an extended look at Kathy’s work here). Her 30-plus year ministry has provided shelter and support to homeless, pregnant teenagers in New Jersey, and saved the lives of thousands of babies.
Though Krauss hadn’t heard of DiFiore, he visited the shelter while staying at his brother’s house for the holidays. As Krauss explained to me during a “Christopher Closeup” interview, “I didn’t have any intention of doing anything. Then I got so touched by some of these young girls’ lives…One of the girls that I met had walked 25 miles to get there, and I helped her into the shelter. That was transformative for me! It reached into my heart that I had helped somebody…I approached Kathy one day and said, ‘I think more people need to find out about this place because this [story] could spread kindness and compassion.’ I never expected it to be this film, but it just blossomed.”
Krauss had a history of working on projects with moral and spiritual depth. His first-ever film in the late 1990s – a short called “Puppies For Sale,” which starred Jack Lemmon – addressed the inherent dignity of people with disabilities because he himself had grown up with a disability and endured the social repercussions of that. A later film, called “Amexica,” looked at the plague of human trafficking.
Krauss came to see the shelter as “holy ground,” so he moved in for an entire year to make sure the script he wrote got everything right. He even shot part of the movie there, and used some of the girls and their babies on screen. His approach worked because one of “Gimme Shelter’s” greatest strengths is that it shows instead of tells. This isn’t a preachy movie, but one in which we walk through Apple’s troubles with her, experiencing betrayal, loneliness, and hopelessness – followed by a rebirth of trust, healing and love.
Coming Back From the Dark Side
As DiFiore explained to me during the joint interview with Krauss, this storytelling approach is grounded in reality: “If a young lady seems like she has a dark side to her, it’s usually because she was physically abused or mentally tormented very badly. So we have professional staff that work with them. Over the course of time, through God’s love and an understanding of the Holy Scriptures, they heal.”
Krauss adds that sometimes girls who experience abuse become part of a cycle in which they abuse their own children. “But Kathy breaks the cycle when they come to the shelters,” he says. “She doesn’t force anything. She just tries to show them the way and give them courage so that they’re willing to take baby steps towards reconstructing their lives. And she shows them that not everybody is bad. The number one word I’d say that she develops with them is ‘trust.’ Because that’s the thing that was broken the most; that somebody would actually be willing to help them is something that they can’t believe when they’ve been kicked down so many times in their life and told that they’re no good and worthless…And when they trust, they give you their heart.”
“Gimme Shelter’s” power as a story rests on the shoulders of Vanessa Hudgens’ performance as Apple. If you only know her from “High School Musical,” seeing her here will be a revelation because she transforms herself into this lost, broken character who just needs someone to show her some much-needed love and compassion.
Krauss originally wanted to cast an unknown actress as Apple, someone who “understood the streets and the intensity of that life.” Hudgens, however, had read the script and asked to audition. Krauss was impressed, but still auditioned other actresses and sent the tapes along to DiFiore for her and the girls at the shelter to review. Unanimously, they all picked Hudgens even though “they didn’t know who she was.”
Hudgens lived in the shelter for three weeks and, as Krauss explained, “She transformed and bonded with these girls. She let me cut her hair off, she gained fifteen pounds, and she became this character. Once she got to the shelter, she was Apple. Her voice changed, everything changed about her."
A Movie and a Movement
People who have seen “Gimme Shelter” during its early limited release have been changed as well. Krauss says, “People are brought to tears – tears of joy, hope, compassion and love.” DiFiore calls it “a movement” instead of just a movie, noting that young people lined up after screenings to hug her and tell her they felt like their lives were reflected onscreen. “The movie is almost like a healing experience,” she says.
For DiFiore, her mission of healing the girls in her shelters doesn’t end when their babies are born. She explains, “We have a Special Families program. They have 165 children. All of those children were children that were born into our shelters, and we tell the mothers, ‘We will help you until your baby’s eighteen-years-old.’ And they don’t take advantage of that. We have one little girl with severe asthma. And her mother will call us and say, ‘I need this breathing machine,’ or ‘My electric bill went up,’ and we’re there for her! So we’re not just saying ‘Have your baby.’ It’s a truth that we’re your family. We’re not gonna desert you. We love you.”
DiFiore is spreading her mission in other ways too. She’s written a book entitled, “Gimme Love, Gimme Hope, Gimme Shelter: The Inspiring Story Behind the Movie.”
And if people are inspired by the movie to open their own shelter, they can visit DiFiore’s website –www.SeveralSourcesFD.org – for her free “How to Open a Shelter Kit.’ She says, “The bylaws are there, the job descriptions, the rules, some DVDs, there’s even one on fundraising—just all the little tips on how I got started. It will probably take a year or two; it’s not easy. But at least it gives them some foundation on how to move forward. We need more shelters! There are only about 500 hundred in the whole country for pregnant women. Once this movie gets out, Tony, the phone’s gonna ring off the hook, we’re gonna we need more shelters!”
Regarding her hopes for people who see “Gimme Shelter,” DiFiore says, “I want people to get closer to God. And through the power of prayer, I want people to be inspired to do something, whether it’s for one individual that they personally know that needs help or for something greater than that, like opening a shelter. God will direct them.”
Krauss adds, “My hopes as the filmmaker is that this film will give people hope—that no matter who you are and what you’re facing, that there’s hope out there. If you think God’s not there for you, He is. If you just reach out. He’ll be there for you.”
(To listen to my two-part interview with Ronald Krauss and Kathy DiFiore, click the podcast links below:)
Christopher Closeup podcast – Guests: Ronald Krauss and Kathy DiFiore, Part 1
Christopher Closeup podcast – Guests: Ronald Krauss and Kathy DiFiore, Part 2
By Lori Hadacek Chaplin
In the 1980s, Kathy Difiore turned her home into a pregnancy shelter for unwed mothers. When the need grew, she opened three more residential shelters in New Jersey. Her heroism has been brought to the national forefront by a new movie called Gimme Shelter (release date January 2014)—a touching pro-life film about how Kathy’s shelter gave Apple, a down-and-out teenage mom, hope.
What compelled you to open your home to strangers?
I went through a difficult divorce and found myself homeless for a while. I prayed the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, and I discovered that the only time that I felt peace in my heart, mind, and soul was when I prayed that prayer. Then I studied the life of St. Francis and saw that he lived his faith. “When I was homeless, you took me in, when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was in prison, you visited me.” I decided that once I got back on my feet, I was going to try to do that.
How did you first pregnancy shelter begin?
I took an ad out in a local paper “Pregnant? Need Help?” and I put a hotline in my house. Little by little, I had four unwed mothers living with me. My whole life turned around. At that time, I was working to pay the bills to support these girls and their babies. I had a new life filled with joy. People in the neighborhood would help me by dropping off strollers, car seats, used clothing, and diapers.
How long can a mother stay, and in what ways are you helping them to become independent?
The girls can stay as long as they want. We have a benefactor who pays for their drivers’ licenses and college. We teach them how to be good mothers and how to be loving and forgiving. We have Bible studies and chastity workshops. When they leave, we make sure they know God in hearts, so they can teach their babies about God.
How do the shelters impact the community?
My community consists of the women who are pregnant and their babies, their families, and their friends. My shelters have brought joy and hope and a sense of “we can do this together and with God’s grace.”
How many shelters do you currently run?
I have five shelters in New Jersey, one of which is temporarily closed due to lack of funds. I’m really hoping we can reopen it because of the number of beds we will probably need when the movie comes out. One of those shelters is also a daytime shelter for homeless women. In addition to helping women who are pregnant, we have a number of other ministries. Check out www.severalsourcesfd.org to read about all of the different ministries.
Since each of your shelters can only house six mothers and their babies, how do you manage when there is a greater need?
I’m always playing logistics. We also work with other organizations in New York that have homes. We do creative things, too; maybe a woman needs a place but for the next month her girlfriend will let her stay with her if we pay the girlfriend’s rent. We know that next month we will have an opening. I feel like I’m an air-traffic controller—I have pregnant women flying over my shelter, and my job is to make sure they all have a place to stay, but they may not land exactly at the time that they want to land. All the planes have to land safely—that’s the key.
Back in the mid-1980s, the state of New Jersey fined you $10,000 and made it impossible for you to run your shelter because of antiquated laws. During this 15-month battle, you reached out to Mother Teresa for help. How was she instrumental in helping you keep your shelter open?
Mother Teresa got the fine removed. She also begged Governor Tom Cain to sign a bill [eventually called the Difiore Bill] that states you can take up to six people into your home as long as you have fire protection equipment and live-in staff. Can you imagine being begged by a living saint to do anything?
Before I contacted Mother Teresa, I got a letter from the governor saying, “Kathy, we can’t guarantee that everyone is going to be the humanitarian you are, so we’re going to have to veto the legislation.”
I didn’t know how I was going to continue; how do you override a veto? Inside my head I heard this insistent voice reverberating in my head (a voice I had been previously trying to ignore), saying, “Contact Mother Teresa.” It wasn’t to be denied, and I’ve never done this before in my life, but I immediately prostrated myself on the ground.
Mother Teresa happened to be in Manhattan because she was opening up an AIDS hospital and accepting an award at the United Nations. She and I talked on the phone. She told me she would visit the governor, write him, call him—whatever needed to be done. The governor ended up signing the bill into law, and now years have gone by and a lot of shelters have been opened in New Jersey, and they haven’t had to deal with needless requirements.
How can we get involved?
If you would help, please send donations to Several Sources Shelters, P.O. Box 157, Ramsey, NJ 07446 or donate online at www.severalsourcesfd.org .
See Gimme Shelter in theaters
Gimme Shelter (rated PG-13) is a well-acted and well-made movie with a pro-life message that comes across without being preachy. The story revolves around a pregnant teen named Agnes “Apple” Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens).
Apple is filled with anger and distrust. She has been in and out of foster homes, where she has been sexually abused. Living now with her drug addict, crazy mother, June (Rosario Dawson), she’s not faring much better. Apple runs away and turns to her biological father (Brendan Fraser), whom she has never met, for help. When he and his wife find out that Apple is pregnant, they pressure her to have an abortion.
When Apple meets Kathy Difiore (Ann Dowd) and the girls at the shelter, her life takes a hopeful turn.
by Joseph Airdo, Phoenix Movie Examiner
Writer/director Ronald Krauss and Several Sources Shelters President Kathy DiFiore recently spoke with “Breakthrough Entertainment” and Phoenix Movie Examiner about the new drama “Gimme Shelter.”
In “Gimme Shelter,” which opens Friday, Jan. 24, Vanessa Hudgens plays a pregnant teenager whose journey plummets her into a perilous struggle until finding salvation in a suburban shelter for homeless teens where she is finally able to break the shackles of her past and embrace the future with clarity, maturity and hope not only for herself but her unborn child.
Listen to “Breakthrough Entertainment” and Phoenix Movie Examiner's full interview with Krauss and DiFiore by clicking on the image above this article. The following is an excerpt from the interview in which they discuss what they hope that audiences take away from watching “Gimme Shelter.”
“I would like this film to carry the mantle of us as a society reviewing where we are at today and how we have been sort of classifying things up until this point. The first is family and that in today's world the definition of family is quite different than what it was even 5 years or 10 years ago. Family sort of looked like Brendan Fraser’s [character’s] family - the American dream and the opportunity of just getting it all and having it perfect. But the world is not perfect.
“The truth is that most people don't have that and are made to feel like outcasts. But even friends are your family. And you are not an outcast; you are just as good as everybody else. I think that more and more people are starting to understand that. We are all each other's family. We need each other’s support. I am hoping that people who see this film will recognize these things as well as that there is always hope - especially if you have a selfless person caring about you. As long as you have somebody - anybody, even just a friend - there is a chance.” - Ronald Krauss
“[After the screening of the film in Phoenix], a young man came up to me crying. He kept saying, ‘That was me.’ I hugged him and kept burying him in my shoulder because I felt that this young man needed so much love and so much attention. It made me realize that when people watch this movie ... they might get sideswiped like this young man. And our culture has to pick up people who need help. It made me think of the fact that we don't look at each other much face-to-face anymore. We are so involved in the wonderful electronics that we have but we need that love, that sense of dignity and that sense that somebody cares about the fact that we are wounded.’” - Kathy DiFiore
by Ken Chitwood
Abandoned, pregnant, homeless and hopeless. Not typically where a story of faith begins.
Or is it just the place?
A new film opens Friday, hoping to lead moviegoers to find faith and to give a helping hand to those in need. "Gimme Shelter," starring Vanessa Hudgens, James Earl Jones, Rosario Dawson, Ann Dowd and Brendan Fraserfollows the travails of a pregnant teen from barbaric background to restoration through the loving care of Several Sources Shelters.
"Faith comes out of despair and suffering," said Ronald Krauss, the director of the film. "This film illustrates that very clearly."
"It shows that no matter what direction you're heading, no matter how bad you think it is, there's hope, there's somebody, some place that understands," he said.
In the case of main character Apple (Vanessa Hudgens), that somebody was Kathy DiFiore, the founder of Several Sources Shelters.
Emerging from her own abusive and homeless past, DiFiore founded the shelter more than 30 years ago. "With God's help, I was able to bring my life back together," said DiFiore. "Soon after, I felt God tapping me on the shoulder to reach out to people in need."
And she did, opening her New Jersey home to young pregnant girls after advertising in a local paper. The next thing she knew, she had a pregnant teen staying in her house.
Today, the shelter includes five homes that are "beacons of light and hope for God's pre-born and His children in need," said DiFiore.
Krauss, who spent a year at one of the shelters, said, "I didn't set out to make a 'faith film,' but Kathy's work is God's work, and so to honor her life and her efforts, faith became part of the story."
More than faith, Krauss said this film is about holding up life. "This film deals with some of the most life-changing and affirming things we can imagine: a mother and her child," he said. "This is creation, this is the essence of life, so you have a story of a young girl who tries to keep her child in the face of hopelessness."
The viewer follows Apple through her struggles: with a mother who is an addict (Dawson), an out of touch father (Fraser), life on the streets and a God she doesn't care to believe in. Still, DiFiore (Dowd) and an elder priest (Jones) intervene and help her find faith - in life, in family, in God.
"It's an authentic, compelling, story," said Jan Rosman, who saw the film and is a board member for Young Lives - a ministry for teen moms and their babies run by the evangelical Christian Young Life organization.
"It was very personal to see a story of some of the young women I work with," she said. "Instead of being numbers, this movie makes their stories personal."
She shared that the film encourages more than charity, it inspires community, family and a desire to help others find a better vision for their future.
This is exactly what DiFiore and the filmmaker are hoping to see upon the film's release. While they certainly desire that moviegoers will share their excitement about the movie on social media, they want to see people moved to action.
"The first thing you see when you walk into Kathy's shelter is a statue of Jesus with no hands given to her by Mother Teresa," said Krauss. "When I asked her why she has this statue, she told me, 'We're the hands.' "
"This movies asks us to become the hands for others, we must become the hands to heal," he said.
Rosman agreed, "Young women need to know somebody cares for them, and this movie should inspire you to do what Kathy did for others, to give them hope and a future."
As DiFiore said, "This film is about healing, and I hope that no matter who you are, whatever your background, this film helps you find healing or moved to help others find healing and mercy with God."