Don Danilo Mena Hernández, 77 years old, is the proud father of Uriel and Abdelino, they live in the Colonia Puriscaleña, in Matina de Limón. Don Danilo’s children have cognitive problems and are also blind; but his story is not about pain, it’s about dreams and hopes, it’s about how there can be a lot of light in the midst of darkness. In the documentary Stories of a generation with Pope Francis, a Netflix production, the Costa Rican family told what their life is like and the illusion they have of knowing the sea.
In March 2020 Doña Hilda, wife of Don Danilo and mother of Uriel and Abdelino, passed away. What she asked her husband is to take good care of their children and the father has done so. The family lives in the mountains, in a place that is difficult to access, but they are happy amid the song of the birds in the morning, the barking of their dogs, their chickens and even a pig. They ask for little, despite the shortcomings they have, and they value more than anyone else the opportunity to listen to music, every night, on a small radio they own.
The audiovisual Stories of a generation with Pope Francis, in which the life of Don Danilo and his children takes part, is inspired by the book The Wisdom of the Years of Pope Francis. The production takes a journey through the lives of older adults whose lives are full of ups and downs, explaining to young people the meaning of love, dreams, struggle and work. The documentary series is produced in four chapters, with an approximate duration of 45 minutes each.
Don Danilo and his children are also part of the book, since his life came to the knowledge of Pope Francis thanks to the Unbound Foundation, a non-profit organization that works with families and people with limited resources and has a headquarters in Costa Rica. Through its insights on relevant issues of life and human beings, the Catholic leader appears in the film as a common thread in the stories.
Other older adults also appear in the documentary series giving their advice on life. One of them is the renowned American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who tells his youngest daughter how he realized the importance of love and how he has learned the true meaning of this feeling, which implies commitment, responsibility, changes and adaptation.
It also highlights the testimony of an Italian, who rescued several migrants at sea, as well as a Uruguayan couple who found in tango a way to strengthen their relationship. It also highlights the case of an American woman, who fights for racial equality in her country. Don Danilo and his children appear in the second episode of the series, which is titled Dreams.
From Costa Rica to the world
The Italian company Stand By Me was in charge of bringing the new documentary to the small screen. Through the Foreign Trade Promoter of Costa Rica, it was the national production company Fokus that was chosen to carry out the recordings in our country.
“Don Danilo’s case is one of great hope because, despite his health problems, the fact that he is about to lose his sight and the situation of his children, he has the illusion of fulfilling his dreams, of moving forward and putting looking at the immediate future, living day to day”, commented Rafael Padilla, from Fokus.
To record the audiovisual with the family, the team worked for three days in their house, getting to know their struggles in depth and, of course, the faith with which they live.
“From the very beginning, when we were working with the producers at Netflix developing the investigation and planning how we were going to approach the story, I’m not lying to say that that approach caused us concern. The story is very strong, but when you meet don Danilo and his children they radiate such profound gratitude and joy that the story gives you back the desire to live”, explained Roberto Murillo, director of the project.
The production has the particularity of being an international cooperation, which led not only to having the history of the Ticos with high quality film, but also gives the opportunity for more people in the world to learn about our country. “It fills me with great enthusiasm to think that there is a need to generate sensitive content, content that is really deep,” added the director.
The production team in Costa Rica was made up of Rafael Padilla (Fokus Fixer Producer), Roberto Murillo (director and director of photography), Juan Carlos Herrero (camera) and Erick Vargas (sound).
“From the direction we tried to portray the essence of a Costa Rican, but we also wanted Costa Rica to have a certain role, reflecting that identity, our natural wealth with the greenery of the mountains. Even for me, it was very important to incorporate the song Eso Es Imposible, by Ray Tico, as part of the narrative”, commented Murillo.
From the Unbound Foundation, which works in different vulnerable areas of the country, they make their organization available so that those who wish to support Don Danilo and his children, as well as many other families in conditions of limited resources, can do so. Those interested can contact Carolina Cordero Cruz, general coordinator of Unbound, at 8562-1298.
During the recording of the Netflix documentary, Don Danilo and his sons Abdelino and Uriel managed to fulfill one of their greatest dreams: Get Know the Sea.