(Photos courtesy Abbie Reese, MFA’13)


Abbie Reese, MFA’13, completes the filming of her new documentary, Chosen: Custody of the Eyes.

In Dedicated to God: An Oral History of Cloistered Nuns, in bookstores now, the nuns whom Abbie Reese, MFA’13, interviews retain their anonymity by using aliases. Now Reese has completed the filming of a feature-length documentary titled Chosen: Custody of the Eyes. Describing the differences between the book and the film, Reese says, “The book itself was like a study, that it was a way for me to truly understand the culture and establish really strong trust and negotiate how to respect their values.” The documentary, by contrast, is “like an unhinging, and it’s a more creative process.” The documentary, she says, delves deeper into the nuns’ everyday, as opposed to the larger moments in their lives.


The nuns took footage of their own lives inside the monastery. This new look into their cloistered existence is unprecedented, and the intimate access to the monastery offers a new take on religion in a modern era. The nuns staged scenes to be filmed, such as their daily chores, and recorded video diaries about their experience being cloistered. The documentary is a much more collaborative effort when compared to the book; the nuns have complete control over the direction of the documentary.


To cover the costs of postproduction work, Reese set up a project on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo. To encourage donations, she includes as giveaways items made by the nuns, such as handmade rosary beads, which are sent to those who donate $20. Among the other perks are retreats to monasteries in Santa Barbara, California, and Boston, and DVDs and photographic prints. The Indiegogo campaign runs through September 17.