REBEL HEARTS – Review by Jennifer Merin

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Rebel Hearts is a compelling from-the-heart documentary that follows The Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a sisterhood of devoted nuns who bravely stood up to the demeaning and oppressive patriarchy of the Catholic Church to fight for the right to be treated as equals, especially with regard to education and the expression of their credo through art, particularly the controversial graphics of Sister Mary Corita Kent.

Guided by their own consciences, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary publicly protested in the 1960s in Los Angeles, risking their livelihoods, vocation and freedom while refusing to have their religious life and practice be “shaped by a power that oppresses.” That power came in the form of Cardinal , a former Wall Street honcho, under whose authority the sisters were sent to teach in local Catholic schools, although they’d never been trained to be teachers and were not paid for their labor. When these unlikely resistance fighters and their efforts to bring the church into modern life were met with forceful opposition at every turn, they brought a law suit against the church. The protesting sisters and their case became a cause celebre that made front page news.

The Sisters’ bold acts of faith, defiance and activism transformed the Church, and effectively redefined the role of women in the church and reshapes our society in ways that continue to resonate today.

Director Pedro Kos illuminates the Sisters’ story with an extraordinary cache of archival footage, beautifully designed animation and on camera interviews conducted and filmed by producer Shawnee Isaac-Smith over decades with Immaculate Heart Community members Lenore Dowling, Rosa Manriquez, and Ruth Anne Murray. The Sisters and their story are purely inspiring and the Rebel Hearts documentary is profoundly affecting.

EDITOR’S NOTE:Rebel Hearts is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for June 25, 2021.

This review of Rebel Hearts is also published on CINEMA CITIZEN

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is a member of the Critics Choice Association in the Film, Documentary and TV branches and a voting member of the Black Reel Awards. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).