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Synopsis of The 13th Day
At that time Jesus said in reply, 'I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.' – Gospel of Matthew 11:25
Based on the memoirs of Sister Maria Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, and thousands of independent eyewitness accounts, The 13th Day is a dramatic retelling of the experiences of three shepherd children between May and October 1917.
The 13th Day, the first major motion picture by directors Ian and Dominic Higgins, opens with Sister Maria Lucia de Jesus dos Santos recalling the events that transpired between May 13, 1917 and October 13, 1917 in the Cova da Iria (Cove of Irene) region of Fatima, Portugal. The date is 1937 and Sister Lucia, at the Convent of Ponteverde, has been asked by her superiors to write down the events that she said "changed her life forever."
Sister Lucia places the events in time, demonstrating that they took place during a period of great turmoil – the First World War in Europe and the Communist revolution in Russia.
"In Fatima," she says, "we were lucky. It seemed to us as if our lives went on as normal."
Lucia introduces us to her cousins, the other two seers, the compassionate Francisco and the younger Jacinta.
Although primarily black and white, filmmakers Ian and Dominic Higgins creatively utilize color in the film during those moments when the supernatural is breaking through to our natural world.
This first happens during the heavenly lady's first appearance to the three children on May 13, 1917.
At the first apparition, the heavenly lady asks the children to pray the Rosary every day, and asks them to return to the same place, at the same time, on the 13th of every month for five months.
Although the children agree not to tell anyone, Jacinta is unable to contain her excitement, revealing the events to her family members. Jacinta's father, "Ti" Marto, is one of the first to believe the children. Others are skeptical.
Lucia's own mother, Maria Rosa (played by Jane Lesley), is both doubtful and hostile, blaming her husband for filling their children's heads with "fairy stories."
Unable to get her daughter to recant, Maria takes Lucia to the parish priest, Father Ferreira for further interrogation. While not inclined to believe that the apparition is from Heaven, he is willing to believe that Lucia has had some contact with the supernatural.
As a result of the tremendous amount of disbelief, Lucia is plagued with doubts, nightmares, and the taunts of family, neighbors, and friends.
Determined to run away and not return to the Cova, as the 13th of June approaches, Lucia finds herself drawn back, "like a moth to a flame."
"I had to return. She was so beautiful, so good. I had to see her face again and feel the love in her smile," says Lucia.
During the second apparition, the children are again told to pray the Rosary daily for peace. Additionally, Lucia is told that she must learn to read and write so that she can make the lady's message known to the world.
With each new apparition, more and more visitors are drawn to the Cova, which also attracts the attention of the government of Vila Nova de Ourem, specifically the attention of the administrator Arturo de Oliveiro Santos (played by Tarek Merlin).
The vision of July 13th is unlike the previous apparitions. During this apparition the children are shown a vision of Hell, told about the future role of Russia, and are given a vision of an assassination of the Pope.
"The things we had seen changed us," said Lucia. "Jacinta preferred solitude; Francisco became more withdrawn. We hid from the world."
In August, the children are kidnapped by the major and brought to Ourem, thus preventing their attendance at the August 13th apparition. Unable to get them to recant, he threatens each of the children with death by being boiled in oil.
While waiting in their prison cell, the piety of the children impresses the other prisoners, who end up praying with the seers.
In one of the film's most moving scenes, all three children bravely decide to face death rather than reveal Our Lady's secrets. The children are eventually freed.
By October 13th, the date of the promised miracle, between 60,000-70,000 people arrive at the Cova. There, Our Lady reiterates to Lucia that people must turn to God. Lucia is also told that Francisco and Jacinta will be going to Heaven soon.
Worried that she will be left alone, Our Lady tells Lucia that she will always be with her.
Those gathered at the Cova witness the incredible Miracle of the Sun as it spins and then dives in the sky, drying up the ground which had been soaked by rain.
After the First World War, Francisco succumbs to the Spanish influenza and dies on April 4, 1919. Jacinta follows on February 20, 1920. Lucia goes to Porto to enter the School Sisters of St. Dorothy.
"I am told that there is a language in which Fatima means peace," says Lucia at the film's end. "It is my hope that Fatima will remain a light in the dark. A light that will lead us to peace."
Sister Lucia died on February 13, 2005. The Shrine at Our Lady of Fatima continues to receive more than 4 million pilgrims annually.