The Sermons of Sister Jane

Believing the Unbelievable

A film by Allie Light, Irving Saraf and Carol Monpere

2007 | 53 minutes | Color | DVD | Order No. 07925


From Oscar and Emmy Award-winning filmmakers Allie Light and Irving Saraf (Dialogues With Madwomen and In The Shadow of The Stars), in partnership with Carol Monpere, also an Emmy Award-winner, comes their latest film, The Sermons Of Sister Jane: Believing the Unbelievable. This documentary is an engaging portrait that sparkles with the courage, wit and humanity of Sister Jane Kelly, who combines her deep spiritual faith with her equally powerful commitment towards resistance and change.

When Sister Jane discovered that a priest in her church was molesting young men and stealing from the congregation, and when the evidence was ignored by the church, she contacted the press, creating a scandal. Throughout the film she shares her progressive views on issues such as birth control, homosexuality, and women priests. She impels the Catholic Church to return to egalitarian roots of community. The scenes filmed at Plowshares, an organization she created to feed and serve the poor and homeless, demonstrate Sister Jane’s powerful ability to translate her faith into profoundly meaningful action. This touching documentary, skillfully produced by these acclaimed filmmakers, reveals Sister Jane’s long struggle to speak out against what she believed was wrong, and how this ongoing battle ultimately has heart-breaking results.


“Provocative… Highly recommended for discussions on Catholicism, gender studies, religion and spirituality, and women’s studies.”

Educational Media Reviews Online

“ [An] engaging portrait of a woman of strong opinions and even stronger character. Recommended.”

Video Librarian

“Sister Jane tells it like it is. She represents the best that Catholicism has to offer, with no thanks to the male hierarchy…Here is a feminist nun who lives the values of justice and equality. The film captures her spirit and spreads her convictions.”

Mary E. Hunt, PhD Co-director, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

“Likely to be very popular among church reform groups and others concerned with the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s role in the sexual abuse of children and young people. The filmmakers are skilled and experienced. …documents the life of a heroic and single-minded American Catholic sister.”

Marian Ronan Equal wRites


  • Tiburon Int'l Film Festival, Best Documentary
  • Booklist, Top 10 Religion Videos and DVDs: 2007
  • Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
  • Brattleboro Women’s Film Festival


Allie Light

Allie Light, winner of the 1991 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and the 1994 National Emmy Award for best interview program, writes, directs and produced documentary films with her partner, Irving Saraf. Her credits include: RACHEL’S DAUGHTERS: SEARCHING FOR THE CAUSES OF BREAST CANCER (HBO), DIALOGUES WITH MADWOMEN, (Emmy Award); IN THE SHADOW OF THE STARS, (Academy Award); MITSUYE AND NELLIE, ASIAN AMERICAN POETS; VISIONS OF PARADISE (FIVE FILMS ABOUT FOLK ARTISTS); SHAKESPEARE’S CHILDREN; BLIND SPOT: MURDER BY WOMEN; CHILDREN AND ASTHMA AND GOOD FOOD, BAD FOOD, OBESITY IN AMERICAN CHILDREN; AN IRAQI LULLABY, and THE SERMONS OF SISTER JANE, BELIEVING THE UNBELIEVABLE. Her most recent work is EMPRESS HOTEL, released in 2009. Allie has published a book of poems, "The Glittering Cave" and edited an anthology of women’s writings, "Poetry from Violence." Her essays appear in publications about women.

Ms. Light lectured in film at City College of San Francisco and, for ten years, in the Women Studies Program at San Francisco State University. Her life story appears in "On Women Turning 50, Celebrating Mid-Life Discoveries," by Cathleen Rountree (Harper/Collins, 1993), and interviews with Allie are in Film Fatales: Independent Women Directors, by Judith M. Redding & Victoria A. Brownworth (Seal Press, 1997) and "Documentary Filmmakers" Speak by Liz Stubbs (Allworth Press, 2002). Allie has served on the Media Advisory Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. (8/14)

Irving Saraf

Irving Saraf was a Polish-born American film producer, film editor, film director and academic. Saraf won an Academy Award for producing the 1991 documentary film, In the Shadow of the Stars. In total, Saraf had more than one hundred fifty film and television production credits. His resume included Poland, Communism's New Look, a 1965 television film; USA Poetry: Twelve Films About Modern Poets in 1966; and the 2009 documentary Empress Hotel following the residents of a low-income hotel in Tenderloin, San Francisco.

Saraf was born in Poland and raised in Israel. He immigrated to the United States in 1952, settling in San Francisco. He was married to his second wife, producer Allie Light, for 38 years. Light and Saraf formed a professional production partnership beginning in 1981. Saraf received a Bachelor's of Arts in motion pictures from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In addition to producing, Saraf taught film production at San Francisco State University. Saraf founded the film division of KQED, a PBS channel in San Francisco. He also worked as the manager of the production company, Fantasy Films, owned by film producer, Saul Zaentz. Saraf produced many films with Zaentz, including as the post production supervisor for One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.

In 1995, Light and Saraf were jointly nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy for their work on the PBS show, Dialogues with Madwomen.

Irving Saraf died of complications from three years of Lou Gehrig's disease at his home in San Francisco on December 26, 2012, at the age of 80. He was survived by his second wife of 38 years, Allie Light; six children - Peter, Michal, Ilana, Alexis, Charles and Julia; and eight grandchildren. Peter Saraf is an Academy Award nominated producer whose credits include Adaptation in 2002, Little Miss Sunshine 2006 and Our Idiot Brother in 2011. (8/14)

Carol Monpere

Born in Fresno, California, award-winning filmmaker Carol Monpere drew on her early years in the rural, Central Valley as inspiration for her work. After graduating high school in 1950, Monpere studied playwriting at Stanford University. She earned a bachelor's degree in three years and immediately began writing for a small Fresno television channel. Over many years, Monpere refined her skills, writing for stage and television, then expanding to film and documentaries.

After divorcing her first husband in the late 1960s, Monpere struggled to cultivate her art while raising her three children as a single mother, often exploring her situation through her art: this is most notable in the semi-autobiographical film, Pink Lightning, which she wrote and directed for Fox television in 1991. Monpere’s body of work also includes "The Battle of Westlands," which aired on PBS in 1980 and won both a George Foster Peabody Award and an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. In 1977, Monpere’s film adaptation of "The Extraordinary Adventures of the Mouse and His Child," a novel by Russell Hoban, gained her much critical acclaim. In 2006, Carol Monpere succumbed to a seven-year battle with breast cancer. (07/09)


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