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New Bánica film

First slide

How do you connect two groups of people separated by distance, language and culture? That is the question Father Keith M. O’Hare is attempting to answer with a new film documenting the Bánica Mission where he serves as pastor of San José Church in Pedro Santana.


“It was a thrilling adventure, Indiana Jones meets Mother Teresa,” said Father Searby

For years, many priests have tried to bridge the more than 1,300-mile gap between the diocese and the mission. Mission trips have been a great way for hundreds of young people to connect with their Dominican brothers and sisters. There are still those in the diocese who don’t know the mission exists or know how to help. 


Father O’Hare enlisted the expertise of Alex Lash, a film student at St. John Paul the Great Catholic University in California, and his film crew Zen Garden Productions. Lash grew up in Annandale and participated in two mission trips to Bánica when he was in high school. Father O’Hare asked Lash and his team to tell the story of the mission with a focus on the Arlington priests who baptize, teach, bury and pray with the people in Bánica every day.


Lash became interested in a film career after graduating from high school and not knowing what to do with his life. He knew that he did not want to go back to school. He thought of teaching in Uganda or joining the U.S. Marine Corps. Then he heard about the university’s film program and is now pursuing a bachelor’s in communication media and a master’s in film production.


About a year and a half into the program, Father O’Hare approached Lash with the Bánica documentary project. Lash and his crew already had a good promotion video portfolio, but this would be their biggest project to date. The crew accepted the challenge and boarded a plane to Bánica in June 2015.


For 17 days, the team trekked with Father O’Hare and Father Jason Weber, pastor of San Francisco de Asís Church in Bánica, across the Dominican terrain, capturing frame upon frame of the mission. Their DSLR cameras whirled as they documented the fruits of the mission. They visited the mission’s new dance studio where they saw young girls gaining confidence and learning what it means to be respected. On another day, they witnessed the grief of a funeral procession as it crossed into Haiti. The crew came home with more than 100 gigabytes of video despite the summer heat and a few bumps along the way.


“Down there it is so hot that two hours in and you are just done,” said Lash. After a while in the tough conditions the team’s immune systems were pushed to the limit. Each crew member ended up getting sick, but they were back on the road quickly.


Along for the ride was George Mason University Chaplain, Father James R. Searby, the creative director and voice of the film.


“It was a thrilling adventure,” said Father Searby. “Indiana Jones meets Mother Teresa.”


The entire experience left Father Searby with a deep connection to the mission and his brother priests as well as a renewed vigor for his priestly vocation.


“It was great to live through that and absorb the fruits of their priestly ministry,” said Father Searby. “The priests are the bridge and we are in deep communion with them.”


Father Searby and the Zen Garden production team are now editing the film in time for a 2017 screening in the Arlington Diocese. 


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016