When Fairfield’s Ana de Lara Bartulabac was 25-years-old, her world came crashing down.
Bartulabac, who was an actor at the time, was diagnosed with Lupus. It was debilitating — she was intermittently handicapped and bed ridden. She thought she would never be able to perform again.
But it was her willingness and love for the film industry that energized her to keep going and is the inspiration behind the film, The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb.
The wacky comedy, which Bartulabac originally performed as a 35-minute, one-woman show at the Victoria Fringe Festival a few years ago, is about a 15-year-old devout catholic named Virginia Mary. Virginia does everything she can to avoid growing up like her mother, who got pregnant when she was young and is now in prison. However, Virginia discovers God wants her to give birth to the second coming of Christ, a lamb — a saviour of the animal kingdom to remind people that animals are there for more than just protein and seat covers.
“The film explores identity, fate and questioning your purpose in life. It’s about miracles,” said Bartulabac, adding the film does not preach religion. “I believe in miracles because I had a miraculous healing with my illness. Trust that things happen for a reason.”
The Virgin Mary Had a Little Lamb is Bartulabac’s first feature-film (she’s directed a number of award-winning short films) and once made, will be one of the first Canadian full-length films to feature a Filipino lead character and be directed by a Filipino-Canadian.
“I just love the magic of film. One of the things that blows me away is the commonality of humanity despite what country you live in,” Bartulabac said. “A lot of wars are based on differences, but really at the core of things, we all have the same needs and the same problems that they go through and films have a way of communicating that to say ‘we’re not all that different’.”
The script has also earned the 48-year-old one of eight invitations to the 20th annual session of Women in the Director’s Chair, a program that focuses on developing directors’ feature films and includes a three-month mentorship tailored to advance each director’s project.
“She’s a very talented up and coming filmmaker and we are very intrigued by her story and what she has to say as a filmmaker,” said Carol Whiteman, president and CEO of Creative Women Workshops Association, that puts on the program. “Studies show that women in our industry are incredibly underrepresented as screen directors in television series and feature films. We’re interested in helping to springboard these creative people into these leadership positions that have been the domain of men for decades.”
Bartulabac will travel to Whistler to participate in the program beginning Nov. 22. She is currently in the process of securing funding for her film.