Chosen

Custody of the Eyes

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Chosen is a coming-of-age 107-minute documentary film—an intimate portrait of a young woman becoming a cloistered nun in the Poor Clare Colettine order. The documentary is set in the Corpus Christi Monastery in Rockford, Illinois.

Director Abbie Reese was granted rare and continued access, beginning in 2005, to conduct oral history interviews with the Poor Clare nuns in Rockford, as well as make photographs and record video footage within their cloistered monastery. The vow of enclosure means the nuns rarely leave their grounds (to go to the hospital, for example), and their family are allowed four visits a year, always separated by the metal grille. The nuns also make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; they seek anonymity and observe silence.

In 2005, Abbie arranged to meet Heather*, a blogger and college art and graphic design student considering her call to religious life. Abbie interviewed the Heather over the course of six years as the young woman considered joining a monastic order that traces to Saint Francis. In 2011, the twenty-five-year-old became a postulant in the religious order founded in 1212 by Saint Clare, a follower of Saint Francis.

Knowing Heather to be a gifted visual artist, Abbie sought permission to lend Heather a video camera to document her journey. Abbie asked Heather to record the rich monastic culture, as well as video diaries / video letters. Amazed by the footage by the first-time cinematographer, Abbie arranged to continue lending the video camera on and off from 2012 to 2015.

Chosen offers a unique glimpse inside the religious order that began in medieval times and whose members maintain a strict separation from the outside world. The self-scrutinizing video footage forms a portrait of Heather as she is in the process of becoming Sister Amata*.

Abbie is author of Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns (Oxford University Press, 2014). She has an MFA in visual arts from the University of Chicago.

*Heather is an alias she chose to reflect the Poor Clare pursuit of hiddenness — fulfilling their mission to withdraw from the world to pray for humanity

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