Faith, mystery at the heart of new Martin Sheen film

September 13, 2016

HOUSTON — Martin Sheen stars in "The Vessel," a new film directed by Sugar Land-native Julio Quintana, which premieres at three Houston movie theaters Sept. 23. The Golden Globe-winning actor plays the role of Father Douglas Wood, a priest who finds himself counseling grieving parents after a major catastrophe strikes his small seaside village. 

Julio and Marla Quintana, married couple turned director and producer, shared their story with the Texas Catholic Herald before they head around the country to screen the film with audiences.

TCH: What was the source of inspiration for "The Vessel"?
JQ: "The seed of the film was studying religion at the University of Texas as an extremely devout young Catholic, said Julio Quintana. I was very enthusiastic and excited to intellectualize what was at that point faith-based and spiritual. I thought that if I read enough books or old documents, I'll get to the bottom of this and prove what's true. I tried to intellectualize faith, but realized that at some point you have to make a choice – that's what the film became about. Fr. Douglas is the priest of the town. He tries to intellectualize all these mysterious events in the town, making them into useful practical symbols to help the town move on from the tragedy, but in the end he has to accept that it all worked out in a way that he never would have expected. For me the film is really symbolic of my continuing spiritual journey to accept the things that I can't know and realize that that's OK, that it doesn't mean that anything isn't necessarily untrue, but that the world is just much more complex than I'm able to grasp and that's OK."

TCH: How is "The Vessel" different than other films today?
MQ: "It's been difficult in distribution, because the movie walks the line between faith and art movies. Many times faith movies are not very artistic, in a way, and art films are pretty cynical and not very faithful. But we know their's a market for this, and people want to see films like this." 
JQ: "I do think that we're in a period in our culture where people seem to have to choose between cold reason and faith. It seems like we're becoming more and more divided as a culture and I think that it's important for us to understand that just because there's something we don't understand or know yet, doesn't mean that it's necessarily antagonistic. 
MQ: "Something can be true even if we don't understand it, and that's lost in modern society sometimes."

TCH: There are some major players in this film, what was that experience like?
JQ: "Martin Sheen was fantastic from the very beginning. I was mentored by Terrence Malick (Tree of Life, Thin Red Line), who introduced the script to Sheen. Sheen was always a source of encouragement, and a solid rock during production. I'll always be grateful for everything Martin did for the movie. every movie that's made is its own miracle that it gets on screen. Having Martin and our mentors was clearly invaluable."
MQ: "We had amazing mentors on this movie. Terrence, Martin and Sarah Green (Tree of Life, Mud), all these people all encouraged us. Julio Quintana said.

TCH: Your family had a deep role in this film, how did that turn out? 
JQ: "For us, family has always been a huge part of our lives. I wrote the part for my brother Lucas, my brother Alex, the second camera assistant, also designed and built our boat and was even Lucas' stunt double. Making this with our family – I can't imagine doing this with anyone else. We moved to Puerto Rico, where we filmed, and stayed in this little apartment with no air conditioning and too many mosquitoes. For us, that made it immensely special."

Local Screenings
The film will have three Houston screenings on Sept. 23 at AMC First Colony 24 in Sugar Land, AMC Gulf Pointe 30 in Houston and Santikos Palladium in Richmond. Director Julio and producer Marla, with lead actor Lucas, will host a discussion after the film. An additional screening with be hosted at Alamo Drafthouse – Vintage Park in Houston on Oct. 24. To find additional screenings, visit