Band of Sisters | Movie review
Activist nuns fight the good fight in a locally made documentary.
At 6am on a snowy Friday in January 2008, Sisters Joann Persch and Pat Murphy drive out to Broadview State Detention Center to stand in solidarity with detainees who are being deported. Two months earlier, the two Chicago nuns rallied at the Illinois State Capitol to pass an act granting inmates access to pastoral leaders. After it passed, they even followed up to make sure the law was being acknowledged in places like McHenry County Jail, where they regularly visit and pray with inmates.
Unknown to many, these sisters are movers and shakers who hold press conferences and attend social-justice rallies around the country. Band of Sisters, the first feature from local filmmaker Mary Fishman, chronicles their activism as well as that of other nuns. Their advocacy is portrayed as radical: Until the Vatican II conference in the 1960s, they were expected to live in a convent and dress in a traditional habit.
Much of the film is relayed through interviews and anecdotes about past events; it would have benefited from more hands-on material and fewer scenes set in living rooms. Fiery subjects like Sister Kathleen Desautels—who participates in an Occupy protest and gets arrested at a peace march while lying in the street covered in fake blood—are fascinating to watch. But for a film about activism, Band of Sisters contains strikingly little action.