Aleteia logoAleteia logoAleteia
Saturday 13 April |
Saint of the Day: Pope St. Martin I
Aleteia logo
separateurCreated with Sketch.

The inspiring story behind the new St. Maximilian Kolbe film


Michael Sorich

Filming actors portraying the ten men who died in a cell at Auschwitz, one of whom was St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/24/24

'Triumph of the Heart' brings a desperately needed message of hope: "This film is coming out of the very heart of the Church.”

Maybe you’ve heard about Triumph of the Heart, a feature film about St. Maximilian Kolbe and his companions’ triumph over darkness, due for release in August 2024.

Maybe you’ve even contributed to the viral Kickstarter campaign to spread the word about the film in an effort to “prove that real, authentic stories of Christian hope should be given a chance to be released in theaters worldwide.”

But whether you’ve heard about it or not, you’re going to want to make time this summer to see this movie about the saint who died in the Auschwitz concentration camp, especially after you hear the incredible story behind it. 

Filming on set for ‘Triumph of the Heart

A story of hope

The film proclaims the hope to which St. Maximilian clung, against all odds, while in the darkest place on earth. 

Writer and director Anthony D’Ambrosio explained in an interview with Aleteia how his desire to make a movie about Kolbe’s sacrifice and death arose out of a personal crisis.

The story of St. Maximilian Kolbe really is a story about hope. In my own life, his story gave me a way through a crisis of hope in my own life.”

The hope that sustained Kolbe is exactly why the world needs to hear his story right now, today: “Many people feel like there’s a sort of a shadow looming over us and widespread feelings of doubt or loneliness or isolation. Kolbe’s story shows us how to have hope when there really is no hope in your current circumstances.”

Writer and director Anthony D’Ambrosio filming on set for ‘Triumph of the Heart.

“Out of the heart of the Church”

Filming on location in Poland turned into something of a wild ride, as the filmmakers operated with a tight timeline and budget in a country where they didn’t speak the language or know anyone (at first!). 

“We needed miracles every day to make this happen,” D’Ambrosio said of the process. “Usually movies take years to make, and we only had about three months to go from raising funds to filming in Poland.”

Fortunately, the Polish Catholic community came through in an incredible way. “The Church is incredibly connected, and if you are Catholic, it’s guaranteed you have friends who have friends in Poland,” he laughed. “The Polish Church is so strong.” 

Within a week of arrival, he found himself talking about the project on Polish international TV, and help from the local community began pouring in. 

This authentic, grassroots approach is the secret sauce of this unusual movie. “This is a movie that has grown up from the Catholic community. It’s not from Hollywood. This film is coming out of the very heart of the Church.”

Filming actors portraying the 10 men who died in a cell at Auschwitz, one of whom was St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Freak weather and miraculous surprises

He reminisced about funny misadventures the filmmakers faced, like the time they had to shut down the streets of an entire city, move all of the cars out of the parking lot of an apartment complex, and reschedule a week of filming around a freak early snowstorm. 

When they had to reschedule because of snow, “Our art department was no longer available, and neither was the stunt person.” The filmmakers scrambled to find replacements. As it turned out, another stunt person was available and willing to do the job nearly for free because of his personal devotion to Kolbe. On top of that, this stunt person was one of the best in his profession and brought his entire team with him. “It was a miracle that this guy just happened to be free the day that we rescheduled, and he turned out to be an even better find than before.”

Day after remarkable day, somehow everything kept coming together in an even better way than the filmmakers had hoped. D’Ambrosio saw Kolbe’s intercession in this improbable good fortune.

“Of course we were praying to Kolbe because this is sort of how he lived his life. Any time he needed something he would ask the Immaculata and he would step out in faith and start a project without the money that he needed, and what he needed would miraculously be donated,” he said. “That was exactly how it was for us as well.”

Actor Marcin Kwasny portrayed St. Maximilian Kolbe in ‘Triumph of the Heart.’

A saint like you and me

While Kolbe’s story is a source of hope for those without it, the film’s message is also powerful for those who live with Christian hope, especially in showing how he grew in holiness over time.

It’s tempting to think that all the saints were holy from birth and not like the rest of us, D’Ambrosio said, “and that makes them very inaccessible to us.”

Triumph of the Heart tells a different story. 

“This movie is going to peel back the layers of sainthood to show the process of Kolbe becoming a saint, the journey he had to go through to overcome the same things that any of us as disciples of Christ have had to go through to become prepared and ready to give our lives,” he said. 

“My hope is that it will inspire many more Catholics to feel like they could become great in whatever way they’re called to be saints, that they see sainthood accessible to them because they understand the humanity of a saint that perhaps they couldn’t see before.”

You can follow the production of Triumph of the Heart on the film’s website as its release date approaches this summer.

Catholic LifestyleInspiring storiesMoviesPolandSaints
Enjoying your time on Aleteia?

Articles like these are sponsored free for every Catholic through the support of generous readers just like you.

Help us continue to bring the Gospel to people everywhere through uplifting Catholic news, stories, spirituality, and more.

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.