Clouds director puts lens on faith
The real-life family behind the Disney movie shared its beliefs with cast and crew
After watching numerous auditions, director Justin Baldoni knew he’d finally found in Fin Argus the right young man to portray teenager Zach Sobiech in the new movie Clouds, based on a true story. But he did not cast him until consulting with Zach’s mom, Laura.
“This is Zach! I feel it. I feel it,” she quickly agreed with Baldoni.
The film chronicles Zach’s battle with terminal bone cancer, and how his farewell song, “Clouds,” recorded in Minneapolis before he died in 2013, unexpectedly became a worldwide sensation. The movie debuts Oct. 16 on the streaming platform Disney+.
Baldoni said that during filming, the Sobiech family became like his family, especially Laura. “There’s been a deep, deep reverence … for what she’s been through, what the family’s been through,” he said. “Gratefully, they allowed me to be the custodian of their story.”
Laura told the story in her 2014 memoir, Fly a Little Higher: How God Answered a Mom’s Small Prayer in a Big Way. In it, she detailed the importance of her relationship with God when doctors said Zach had terminal cancer: “I knew I was being presented with a choice. A choice between faith in a loving God who knew all things and was in control, or a choice to fall into despair and anger.”
The Sobiechs attend St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Stillwater. Laura, played by actress Neve Campbell, said Baldoni respectfully captured the family’s faith. The director spent time earlier with the Sobiechs and their friends when he filmed Zach for his 2013 documentary, My Last Days. He watched a close family in a small Midwest town go through some of the hardest struggles of life. He saw the positive influence Zach had on them during his darkest times and how, through song, his upbeat influence spread across radio and the internet with a life of its own.
The poignant moments he witnessed led him to turn Zach’s story into a feature-length film. “This was always the first movie I was going to make … that I felt I was designed to bring into the world,” Baldoni said.
Baldoni, who practices the Bahá’í religion, said he appreciated the integral role the Sobiech’s Catholicism played in their story. He said pieces of their faith and the relationship between Zach and his girlfriend influence him today, helping him, for instance, apologize to his wife after he’s been wrong: “Who Zach was and who the family is … it just allows me to remember what’s important quicker.”
Laura said she heard from many young people who, after learning about Zach’s story, contemplated their own mortality for the first time.
“I have high hopes this movie will be a source of light in a time of some pretty dark things,” she said. “I would love for people to watch this film and feel hopeful.”
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