A new film from award-winning writer and director Alejandro Monteverde proved to not only tell a story of faith, but to strengthen the faith of those working on it as well. “It was going to be a very, very difficult film to produce, but at the same time we were in love with the story which is about believing in the impossible,” said Eduardo Verastegui, one of the film’s producers and stars, known for his role in the 2006 movie Bella. From the beginning of the film, the town runt, Pepper Busbee (Jakob Salvati), and his dad, James (Michael Rapaport), share a special bond, but it’s tested when older brother London (David Henrie) gets rejected by the Army for being flat-footed, and their dad has to go to war instead. With thousands of miles between them, Pepper, the “Little Boy,” relies more than ever on his and his dad’s motto during their imaginary adventures. “Do you believe we can do this?” his dad asks, to which Little Boy always responds with a resounding, “Yes!” Now with his dad in real danger, Little Boy thinks he can bring him home if only he believes strongly enough. During Mass, he hears Father Crispin (Eduardo Verastegui) quote Matthew 17:20 and tell the congregation that if they have faith the size of a mustard seed, they can move mountains. The lesson that he learns in the story that follows is one faith, mercy and trust in God. Having faith in the impossible was not only in the film’s plotline, but also in its production. From the onset, it was clear that as an independent film made “totally outside the system,” it would be very difficult to produce. Verastegui said. “I knew that this was going to be a big, big challenge,” he explained in an April 22 conference call. First, the production team had to find the money to create the film, including authentic costumes and a set made to look like 1940s small town America. They also needed to cast the film, knowing that the lead role of “Little Boy,” Pepper Busbee, had to be perfect. After going through auditions with more than 1,000 children, Monteverde saw Jakob Salvati sitting in the lobby, waiting for his brother, who was auditioning for the film. Eventually the young boy — then seven years old — won the part, even though he had only acted for television before. During filming, Salvati would reportedly go missing before a scene he was in, only to be discovered by Monteverde praying. “I was praying that the scene would go well,” he said. “I would go over and over and over again saying, ‘God, please help me so I can get this scene right and everyone else can get this scene right,’ because I wouldn’t want to have to do it over and over and over again.” Actor David Henrie, who plays Little Boy’s older brother London, said that he was searching for a film like this after he emerged as a Disney star. Little did he know that producer and co-star Verastegui was praying for him and asking for prayers on his behalf. During a keynote address at a 2012 fundraiser for a women’s pregnancy center in Denver, Verastegui told attendees about the new film and requested prayers for Henrie, who he said was in the midst of returning to the Church. In a different interview, Henrie told BreatheCast.com that the film’s producers were producers were “instrumental” in his conversion and that they “led me back to my faith, led me back to my beliefs”. “I will forever be grateful for (“Little Boy”) because it was the film that saved my life,” he said. As an up-and-coming actor, Henrie said that he’s noticed a growing popularity in faith-based movies over the last decade. “I think the past 10 years, when you look at the top-grossing films, the majority of them have inspirational values or positive messaging and those types of elements to them,” he said during the conference call. “I think there’s a reason why those films are the most successful every year and it’s because that’s what the human heart wants.” “The theme really spoke to my heart in a big way. I think it’s a very foundational element and theme that everyone deals with,” he said, namely, “do you put your faith in yourself to find your own existence or do you put your theme in something bigger than you?” “Little Boy” is distributed by Open Road Films and opened in select theaters nationwide April 24.
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