'Manna From Heaven' screens in KC
By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY - Do you ever daydream about what you'd do if a lot of money suddenly fell from the sky, right into your hands?
This everyday fantasy is the premise of "Manna From Heaven," the third and newest movie from Five Sisters Productions, an independent film production company based in Santa Monica, Calif.
Five Sisters is truly a family affair. Mother Gabrielle Burton wrote the script for "Manna" while she was a student at the American Film Institute. Father Roger Burton, a musician and professor, retired from the University of Buffalo to help produce and promote the film. The five sisters, (Maria, Charity, Gabrielle, Jennifer and Ursula) made the film together, drawing on a wide range of experience in acting and movie making. Ursula Burton plays Sister Theresa in "Manna," a saintly nun whose goodness gets her into trouble constantly.
The film begins when a tornado of $20-dollar bills swirls through a working class neighborhood in post-World War II Buffalo, N.Y., and only one family is around to watch. Members of that family, in-laws and a friend race outside, and gather the cash. When they divide it among them, they each have around $3,000 to spend as they please.
The future saintly sister Theresa, pronounces the money to be a gift from God, a gift with a purpose. It is "a gift from God intended for the improvement of themselves and others."
Twenty years pass, bringing disappointments and memories instead of improvement. On Ash Wednesday, Sister Theresa enters her church and sees a vision in the holy water font. The vision tells her the money was only a loan and it's time to pay it back. Easter Sunday is the deadline.
"Manna from Heaven," full of Catholic imagery and emotion, "is about redemption and becoming a better person. It's about rediscovering hope and community," said actress Ursula Burton, whose mother named her in honor of the Ursuline Sisters' community near Buffalo.
The romantic comedy, which opened in Branson on Aug. 12, and in Olathe, Kan., on Aug. 16, is now playing at theaters in Olathe, Merriam, Kan., and North Kansas City.
Ursula Burton said that Kansas City is a test market city for films because so many residents go to the movies regularly. The movie doesn't have a large advertising budget, and promotion is by word of mouth as the Burton sisters travel throughout the United States on a 45-city "whistlestop tour" handing out posters, fliers, and making friends.
Imagine walking out of a movie theater and being able to shake hands and talk with a real live movie star, director, screenwriter or producer. With "Manna," it can happen.
The film will be shown at a special screening for the U. S. Congress on Oct. 9, after which it will open in Washington, D.C.
The film packs a lot of acting punch, with Academy Award winners Cloris Leachman, Shirley Jones and Louise Fletcher, and other well-known actors including Shelley Duvall, Jill Eichenberry, Frank Gorshin, Seymour Cassell, Faye Grant, Harry Groener and Wendie Malik.
Along with making movies, Five Sisters Productions is committed to community service, and the group plans to donate proceeds from opening night in every city to a Habitat for Humanity International affiliate. Habitat for Humanity builds or renovates modest homes for low-income families.
Locally, Kaw Valley Habitat of Kansas City, Kan., was the recipient.
Fred Andrews, president of the Kansas City Filmmakers' Jubilee, liked the story. "It made you feel good at the end," he said. The theaters screening "Manna" report enthusiastic audiences, said AMC Theaters spokesperson, Rick King.
"Manna" is rated PG.
For show times, check local listings or call, (816) 363-4262.