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Nun of That movie

Indie films are some of my most favorite movies. I love the fresh, unconventional, and truly “independent” spirit of these films and the people who make them happen. Sometimes these films make their way to the masses – Slumdog Millionaire is a perfect example — and sometimes not so much. Still, many are worth seeing just for the sheer ingenuity and creativeness that they embody.

Nun of That may not be the next greatest indie film since Slumdog but its trailer has left me with a sense of curiosity about the film.

“After being gunned down in an alley, [Sister Kelly Wrath] ascends to heaven to receive training from some of the great figures of religious mythology. She is then set back to Earth to join the other members of the Order of the Black Habit, a group of supernatural vigilante nuns, as they fight evil and seek revenge against the mob.”

Now before you start clicking around to learn more about Nun of That, I have to warn you that the film is (minimally) R-rated, it is of the horror genre, and it makes a point of promoting blasphemy (the movie premieres on Good Friday this year). It plays on the absolute worst stereotypes of Catholic sisters and nuns and represents them with the “usual” erotica mix: sex, violence, sacredness, profanity, dominance, and submission. In no way do I recommend it as an accurate portrayal of women religious. Absolutely not.

Nun of That

So why am I writing about it? Well, for a couple of reasons. One is to provide a place that people searching for info on this movie might stumble upon and perhaps stick around for a bit to learn about who Catholic sisters and nuns really are. Two, is because frankly I am fascinated and amused (in the incredulous kind of way) by this movie and want to try to understand why these stereotypes are so compelling to people. Indie movies put these kind of things in bold relief for us, and so for me it’s a kind of study to see what folks are thinking so that I can understand it and also address it.

With all that being said, I have to say I am rather fond of one line in the movie: “We are nuns. We don’t know the meaning of the word fear. We are strong, dedicated women who laugh in the face of danger.” In spite of the violence, blasphemy, stereotypes, and abundant cliches, there is something to be said for a film that presents nuns as “strong, dedicated women” who work to fight injustice.

It’s just that we typically don’t use hand grenades and ninja stars to accomplish our mission.


Audrat February 24, 2009 at 6:48 am

Wow. I don’t know if it’s from the lack of sleep but I definitely started laughing when it said “Sister Kelly Wrath, who’s got a habit…of flying off the handle.” It’s so cheesy! But I do hope that people will “stumble” upon this site when looking for info on the movie…hopefully they will get themselves as education on what real nuns are like and not take the movie too seriously.

Sue February 24, 2009 at 10:22 am

I usually just get kinda mad myself when I see those ridiulously stupid kinda movies out there,just knowing that there are people who really do believe that info BUT I love your great strategy let them think they’ll be learning more about that complete and utter nonsense and suprise they start reading the fantastic info you put out there.I really think that things like that combined with other stereotypes does contribute to the extreme hard time alot of people have telling even the closest people to them they are going to become a sister.(who wants a vampire ninja fighter in the family anyway) My own best friend said the other day that she would act differently than norm if she knew there was a sister around.It was then I said you’d act different around me,after all we’ve been through,and the frequent conversations we have about everything and anything. Her answer was not you cause I know you,my reply was there’s the point real sisters are real people who would talk with you also about anything and everything,and you don’t have to act any different around them cause I’d bet 100% of the eal sisters are NOT vampire,ninjas out to get the mob,but strong,smart women who know just how to make sure people who might actually want to see that,and could believe it,are led without even knowing what they’ll learn to learn from sister Tru about real sisters,who are fighting the ninja, vampire, nuns in there own special way!!

Jean February 24, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Sister Julie – First, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” keeps flashing in my mind. I never actually saw the film but, for nearly 30 years, just the thought of the title has entertained me.

You are a media nun ninja, Sister Julie. I love your savvy: every search on the film will pull up your site and find your willingness to engage in smart and playful dialogue. Shining through all the campy stereotypes and the B-movie sex and violence, there is, I think, some real affection for nuns and a grasp of the paradoxes inherent in Catholic faith and teachings. A very irreverent “study” of those paradoxes, to be sure, and likely even a hurtful one (especially to religious who did not come of age in the era of campy horror flicks and/or and indie films) but not a necessarily hateful one.

I read this just after reading yesterday’s post about the Sister of Mercy from Ireland who taught at St Vincent’s for 33 years. The kids who were interviewed (the ten year old kids and forty year old “kids”) describe a really delightful person: she walks into classrooms and tells her little ones to “sit up straight” (to learn good posture for health, dignity, a focusing of attention, right?) You can sum up that classic nun story/image as “discipline” (and, in your mind’s eye, add a ruler – or ninja star – dangling from her hand) or you can go with what the little girl understood: that she is loved, that Sister is watching out for her.

I love the juxtaposition of the two stories. Again, Sister Julie: you go, you media ninja nun!

deerose February 24, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Interesting flick. As you said, it does seem to perpetuate certain stereotypes. But, on the other hand, that line you mentioned is GOLDEN. And people who look for information on the film will indeed stumble upon your blog. You never know … Excellent strategy. Touche! dee

Ray February 24, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Anything to get the dialogue going is great and it’s a good thing more and more religious are using the new technological tools they have available to start and keep that dialogue.

Although we can’t realistically expect Catholic life to be portrayed 100% accurately in the media, I wish parody were at least more “intelligent”. Gag humor, nuns in “sexy attire”, anyone can do that…a kid throwing a book on someone’s head and saying “take it and read it!” (allusion to Augustine), “finding” a Saint Anthony figurine under a couch…the inside jokes are what make Catholic movies fun!

But I agree that for those not acquainted with the Catholic faith and have misconceptions about it, it’s good to start from somewhere, even if it’s a B-movie that advises us to “do unto others b/c these are some bad mothers!” (actual quote from the trailer…hahaha).

Another Sister Julie, CSSF February 25, 2009 at 1:02 am

This made me think of nuns in anime. Talk about tight, skimpy habits, legs and/or bosoms that won’t quit and attitude besides! How did I come to find out about anime nuns? I googled images of my FOUNDRESS and found a chibi version of her!! At least she was cute & sweet instead of sexy. I reeeeeeeeeealy hope that this movie just goes away.

Jean February 25, 2009 at 1:04 am

So, Sister Julie, now I am stuck on tomatoes, mean tomatoes. I just woke up mid-laugh about one of my favorite Far Side comics: an audience of jeering, heckling tomatoes throwing little people at a stage full of cowering tomato vaudevillians.

And, Ray, I loved your comment. These were B-movie, sophomoric insider jokes (you can tell that they just couldn’t stop themselves sometimes), but I really do think there had to be at least one affectionate insider involved. (What are the Catholic film parodies you refer to? St Christopher under the couch tickles me).

Sister Julie, again, thank you for sense of humor and your serious commitment to “changing the face of nun imagery on the web”. I thought back to the earlier post on the dictionary issue and the Sister’s exhortation at the end of her article that we need to listen so that we can learn to connect and, in the process, know and be known. I bet she might give you five golden ninja star stickers, Sister Julie, for your smart, curious and fun post AND for this terrific techno act of listening-to-connect. Very cool, cool nun.

deerose February 25, 2009 at 7:41 am

I just looked at the trailer and this is indeed one bizarre flick. Honestly, I don’t think it is going to get many viewers. How did you even find out about it? dee

Joyce February 25, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Well, Julie, how did you ‘discover’ this film in the first place? Secondly, you are amazing in the way you ‘turn the hose the other way’ will the real nun step forth! Ah yes, the creators of this film are goaded by your cyberspace blog into justifiying their bizzare portrayal of women let alone ‘nuns’. Let’s see who in the film industry dare take us on via your blog. Thanks, Julie, our heroine.

Ray February 25, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Hey Jean, I wasn’t referring to any movie in particular, those were just some cheesy but still inside jokes I came up with, haha. What I mean was that it’d be nice to have a Catholic movie with both intelligent and affecting substance. The movie Thérèse (2004) for example was very faithful to the beautiful autobiography plot-wise, but the movie itself (I’m not sure if the acting, direction, or both) just felt really flat and harder to connect emotionally with than the book as it seemed more like a random patching of half heartedly spoken stuffy pious dialogue.

So with many Catholic movies it’s hard to strike a balance between being too stuffy versus being flat out inaccurate/crude or painfully clichéd (the typical “all girls/all boys boarding school” plots comes to mind).

Jean February 25, 2009 at 7:10 pm

So Ray, explain the Augustine joke to me.

Ray February 25, 2009 at 9:27 pm

The phrase “take it and read” is basically a reference to Augustine’s conversion story (I think it’s from the Confessions, not sure): “I was suddenly asking myself these questions, weeping all the while with the most bitter sorrow in my heart, when all at once I heard a sing-song voice of a child in a nearby house. Whether it as the voice of a boy or a girl I cannot say, but again and again it repeated the refrain “Take and read, take and read.” At this I looked up, thinking hard whether there was any kind of game in which children used to chant words like these, but I could not remember ever hearing them before. I stemmed the flood of tears and stood up, telling myself that this could only be a divine command to open my book of scripture and read the first passage on which my eyes should fall. So I hurried back to the place where Alypius was sitting, for when I stood up to move away I had put down the book containing Paul’s epistles. I seized it and opened it, and in silence I read the first passage on which my eyes fell: “Not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh (Romans 13:13-14).” I had no wish to read more and no need to do so. For in an instant, as I came to the end of the sentence, it was as though the light of confidence flooded into my heart and all the darkness of doubt was dispelled.”

Michael February 26, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Hello everyone. I’m one of the actors of the film–I had the wonderful opportunity to play both Jesus and the Devil. I was absolutely thrilled to hear the director–Richard Griffin–make the choice about shooting this film. He has a wonderful sense of humor and I think he’s done a great job with the film thus far (the movie is still in post-production). I just wanted to say that we do not point our fingers at any one religion. We have a laugh at all religions. It’s a comedy first and foremost, and no one is singled out. And let’s face it, some of the best comedies ever made cross the line (i.e. Blazing Saddles). I appreciate the curiosity, and I’m glad no one has declared us all damned! And truthfully, as mentioned in previous posts, these nuns are heros…they are the saviors of the film. They are the good guys…even if their methods are a little unorthodox. Thanks again!

Sarah February 26, 2009 at 3:25 pm

Hello all, I’m Sarah and I play Sister Wrath in Nun of That.

I just wanted to say that I think it’s very cool that you are all talking about this film, especially in such an open-minded way. When I first heard that a real nun was writing about the film, I thought that you would be offended since it is such a stereotypically “hollywood” (even though we are oh so far from being a hollywood, or even Slumdog Millionaire film) portrayal of nuns in that we are very sexualized, violent, profane, and behave in every way that I’m sure real nuns do not. So I just wanted to give you big kudos on being so open-minded about the film, when there are those who, after seeing the short-film version, have already voiced their offense to it.

This film is a big over-the-top comedy, and none of it is meant to be taken seriously or as a portrayal of what it’s like to be a real nun. It’s full of puns, ridiculously indecent behavior and language, and has a Mel Brooks offensiveness to it in that it makes fun of all religions across the board (not singling any one out as not to be truly offensive). It is all done in a tone of “good-natured fun” where the events that are taking place are so comical and over-the-top that it would be very difficult to take it as a serious representation of what life as a nun is really like.

As you have mentioned, the film is very empowering for women, which is one of the reasons I love working with this director. He always portrays his female characters as being strong and independent women, unlike so many other films with the classic “damsel in distress”. If you take away all the jokes and mockery, this is a story where good triumphs over evil; where women kick-butt and prove that they don’t need men in order to to have a meaningful and successful life. “I am woman, hear me roar!” And as an actress in this film, that is something that I truly appreciate since when you look at the types of available female roles, in both Hollywood and our small indie-film world, the majority of them are characters who are either subservient or helpless to men in one way or another.

I hope that if any of you do see the film in it’s entirety that you will see the humor in it and while it is meant to be a bit offensive, it is not meant to attack anyone personally or ridicule your chosen path in life. Despite the jokes and the blasphemy in this film, many of the cast and crew (including two ordained ministers and one ex-brother) are deeply spiritual and believers in God, we just hope that He has a sense of humor!

Richard Griffin February 26, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Dear Sister Julie,

Greetings! As the director and co-writer of NUN OF THAT I was delighted to find this blog… and I hope I can answer a few of the questions surrounding the movie and why it was made.

First, let me say I was raised with a Catholic father and a Jewish mother. Both taught me to be respectful of other’s beliefs, but they also were very much into satire and comedy… both low-brow and high-brow.

For many years I worked at a television station, and one of the shows I supervised was a religious talk show hosted by a wonderful Portuguese nun named Sister Costa. Over the many days we spent together we formed a wonderful respect for each other that passed over our many differences.

One of the greatest things I learned from Sister Costa was that….. shock!…. nuns have a sense of humor! I never knew that from watching movies and television. They always seemed like cold robots in habits. Nuns are people too! Sometimes they use foul language… sometimes they have a bit too much to drink.

NUN OF THAT is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a comic book, a fairy tale pure and simple.

But in the movie, at it’s core, is a very strong good vs. evil story. The nuns are the heros, cleaning the streets of crime. Sure, they’re more like the Marines in my movie (it’s a fantasty!) … they drink, they swear, they get into fights, but at the end of the day… you’re glad they’re on your side!

The other amazing thing I found was how many women wanted to play nuns! It was very empowering for them in a way. Also, they were attracted to the fact that, unlike most movies, the women in NUN OF THAT are strong, smart, independent fighters and not the whimpering sissies that Hollywood always seems to portray.

But, in the end…. it’s just a movie. And I think that God in all his greatness enjoys a good joke like the rest of us.

Sincerely yours,
Richard Griffin
Director, NUN OF THAT

Sister Julie February 26, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Dear Michael and Richard, So glad you visited A Nun’s Life. It’s always interesting to hear what it was like for those who had a part in making a film. Even though the film is not meant to portray nuns in real life, there’s a lot that I liked about the trailer because it takes themes that we are used to and plays with them. And it absolutely made me laugh and it also made me proud to see nuns as heroes and as “strong, smart, independent”. I hope that you will be doing a premiere in Chicago — or let me know when the DVD comes out — because I would love to see the whole movie. Thank you for writing in and blessings on all of your endeavors.

Robin February 27, 2009 at 7:25 am

Wow! What a great and open discussion — and reminder that comedy can exist at the surface – to just be funny, and / or can bring us to greater understanding (or at least help us raise the questions and the issues that may lie beneath the surface).

The problem is when comedy / irreverency goes beyond and crosses the line to being disrespectful and objectifying (especially in regards to women).

We live life in a multi-dimensional world and there are those who would like things to be very linear and orderly — who sometimes cannot see humor, recognize fiction, or are quick to pass immediate judgment. (Think of how many books and movies are judged without even a 1st or 2nd look — I remember the lists of “banned” and “questionable” movies that were in the weekly Catholic newspaper growing up. I also remember saying, if they are “questionable”, shouldn’t we be seeing them so that we can answer the questions… (it never worked to get in the R movies as a kid, but it was worth a shot – just kidding). Even recently, with all of the back and forth, and those who felt Catholicism was so threatened by The DaVinci Code – many of those critics admitting they never read it or saw the movie and had no intention of doing so.

I have to believe God has a sense of humor (I think we are in big trouble if that is not the case)… and I certainly believe that creativity and humor are gifts inspired and given by God in God’s image and likeness.

With all that said, I go back to Ray’s comment above: anything to get the dialog going, great!! This has certainly been the case here. THANKS!

Chris February 27, 2009 at 8:13 am

Honestly I dont consider myself that religious but this is pushing the limit. When I first saw it I thought it was a mock trailer for a fake movie. When I realized it was an actual full length I could hardly believe it. I am not against nun jokes but this is perverse. As an actor this is one film I would never associate myself with. We should have a little more respect.

Alex February 27, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I truly respect Chris’s Opinion but I don’t Understand it, You say that when you first saw it you believed that it was a trailer for a mock movie, you didn’t seem to have an issue with it until you discovered that it was a full feature film, I am just curios to what the difference is, if you are an actor you should understand better than anyone thats its all about craft, that the material is one of the tools. Its like telling a dirty joke, the length of it should not be the offending part, its either offensive or it isn’t. The craft here was the telling of the joke, the Nuns Got the Joke, You didn’t. My Opinion, as an actor, you have to help tell the story, if your worried about it offending someone, your going to have a hard time getting work.

Michael February 28, 2009 at 10:52 am

Chris, I fully respect your opinion, I honestly do. We all have our own ideas of what’s right, and what’s wrong…and what crosses the line. We must bare in mind…some of the best comedies of ALL time have crossed the line–movies like Blazing Saddles. I’m sure many people were (are) offended by Blazing Saddles…but it is considered today one of the funniest movies ever. And all the actors involved got huge accolades for their performances… It has nothing to do with respect Chris. It’s about making movies, telling a story, and having a good time doing it. This movie isn’t one big nun joke…it’s a lot more than that. And being an actor myself, I had no problem being in this movie. Who would blackball an up-and-coming actor for taking risks? I’m not at all worried about my carreer as an actor…if anything, it’s risks like this that will allow me to stand out…just as this movie stands out among the myriad Hollywood humdrum stories. Just my two cents. Thank you everyone for the wonderful dialog.

Alex March 2, 2009 at 9:53 am

Sister Julie, I’ve read some of the literature on this site and I applaud you for being one of the few people that has gone above and beyond to change the imagery of Nuns. I also want to thank you for bringing out the fact that Nuns are human too and have a sense of humor. I guess the most positive thing is that you have opened a site where you have managed to bring us together to express our opinions with out anyone being offended.

I had the privilege of working with the film makers, actors and crew members of the film NUN OF THAT. I never met a more professional group of individuals that had worked so hard to tell a funny story.

I never felt at anytime, that I was present, that their intent was to offend or discredit nuns or anything they stood for. I understand that there are people that will be offended , but I hope in time, like Blazing saddles, everyone will see the film for its humor and the hard work that many individuals put into it.

In a world where society has opted to take religion, the arts and music out of the schools, all we have is comedy and each other.

Will March 31, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Is it only the blasphemy and sexy habits, or is it the motif of nuns (physically) combating evil offensive as well?

genovia May 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm

What did you think of the song “Sister Sister” ? I think it’s sung by Jesus.

Sister Julie May 5, 2009 at 7:31 pm

Sadly I have not yet seen the movie. Hoping it will appear in Chicago or that review copies will be sent out.

jez May 19, 2010 at 3:52 am

I’ve seen the movie. I’m a bloke (average). And I ‘stumbled’ upon this site (Good call Sister Julie)

Nuns come out GREAT!

Sister Wrath was ace! and Ghandi was cool (as the martial arts instructor).

Priests, on the other hand, come off very badly as does the male-centrism of the Catholic Church … I feel you should take positive Catholic role models in any way you can get them – and you certainly got them here – the nuns rocked – sort of ‘Sister Act’ cleaning up the community with machine guns instead of paint brushes.

I laughed my guts out but appreciate that the blasphemous humour (à la ‘South Park’) may be a bit tough to swallow. The violence is comic book but it will have got the R rating for safety. I would say it was more like a religious Soprano-esque ‘American Pie’.

I heartily recommend this fun film and look forward to a sequel.

p.s. I’ve just re-read Sister Julie’s last line: “It’s just that we typically don’t use hand grenades and ninja stars to accomplish our mission” – ‘typically’ but not ‘never’ – hmm, makes you think – and made me smile.

Sister Julie May 20, 2010 at 5:58 am

Jez, thanks for the review! I had been waiting for the movie to come out on DVD and after reading your comment went and found it on Amazon. It’s coming to a convent home theatre near you! (well, me) I’ll be sure to post a full review of it sometime in the coming weeks. Peace!