Could a nineteen-year-old girl change the course of history simply by faith?
This is the question posed and answered by BYUtv’s latest documentary and drama, Joan of Arc. Featuring beautifully shot reenactments in France and powerful interviews with leading experts on her life and Church leaders such as Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Joan of Arc offers an in-depth look at the life and the impact of the Maid of Orléans.
The Emmy-award winning team that brought Joan’s story to life included Russ Holt, writer, director, and producer, and Scott Swofford executive producer. Together, they sought to bring both authenticity and relevancy to Joan’s story.
Joan of Arc, born to a peasant family, received heavenly visitations when she was thirteen, telling her she would help reclaim France from the English. Considered a heroine of France, she led multiple successful military campaigns and eventually helped lead Charles VII to his coronation at Reims, an act that solidified a French victory and stood as a symbol of France’s power. Joan was eventually captured by English troops and burned at the stake in 1431. Twenty-five years later, her trial was declared invalid and Joan pronounced innocent and a martyr. In 1920, she was canonized as a saint by the Catholic Church.
“This is likely the most accurate telling of the story to date,” said Swofford. “We avoided fictionalizations, and based all that we could on the remarkable trial transcripts that have been preserved. Many of the original locations were used, and the European cast is so talented. We think families will enjoy this telling of an important and compelling story for all people of faith.”
“As we began this project, we set out to visit every town and village in France that was connected to Joan’s life. We traveled for hours over winding country roads to visit Domremy, Jones birthplace in northeast France,” added Holt. “This was before the tourist season and we had this little village almost totally to ourselves. It was akin to a sacred experience to stand in the little home that was her birthplace. Our cast and crew were nearly all from France or England. It was a privilege to work with people who had deep feelings of reverence and respect for Joan and her story. I think it added much to the film.”
Alongside the dramatic footage shot in France are interviews with faith leaders and experts who have studied Joan’s life. Members of the Church will particularly recognize Elder Holland and Bishop Gerald Caussè, who is a native of France. Elder Holland especially has spoken eloquently in the past about Joan of Arc.
“They were both full of passion and expression on this subject, and that makes the film so much stronger. They both have significant media experience, and were able to help distill their thoughts and reflections into very compelling segments,” said Swofford.
Holt also reflected on the passionate testimonies of the men and how it benefited the film.
“They both brought personal knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject matter to this project. It was a joy to interview them. They added a depth and perspective to our film that significantly enhanced it.”
For many Latter-day Saints, learning and identifying with figures outside of our own history is often forgotten about. However, the filmmakers believe this message is applicable to anyone who believes in the power of faith and especially to members of the Church.
“The LDS message is one of God doing amazing things with the meek and lowly of the earth,” said Swofford. “From Gideon to Joseph Smith, people willing to listen to the promptings of the spirit have been able to accomplish his work. Without Joan of Arc, a unified France was unlikely. Without France, our own revolutionary war might have had a different outcome, and without the resulting independence and constitution of America, the religious freedom that enables us to practice our faith might not have materialized.”
You can watch Joan of Arc online by clicking here or by watching it on BYUtv throughout the holiday season. For Holt and Swofford, working on this project has had a lasting impact.
“Her devotion required the ultimate sacrifice. When I see her steadfastness, my own sacrifices seem small in comparison,” said Swofford.
“Immersing myself in Joan’s story has taught me that God moves in powerful and unusual ways to accomplish his purposes. It has taught me that a single individual, even an unlikely one, can do amazing things with God’s help,” said Holt.