offers a candid look at an unconventional nun. Tough-talking Sister Helen Travis is a recovered alcoholic who reinvented herself at age 56, after the loss of her husband and sons, by joining the Benedictine order in 1986. Two years later, she opened a recovery center for men in the rat-infested South Bronx (literally--the tenants battle several during the course of the film). As Sister Helen explains, "I try to do for other people's sons what I didn't do for my own. It's a second chance." Daughter Mary helps out at the center, but life mostly revolves around men like Major, an alcoholic, and Robert, a crack addict. They're everything to her and she to them--mother, counselor, warden. Her rules are strict (no female visitors, regular urine tests, community service), but her love and support is boundless. Sister Helen
is a worthy testament to an unforgettable character. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
One of the most unanimously acclaimed documentaries in recent years and winner of the coveted Sundance Film Festival Directing Award, this emotionally compelling film is an inspirational and uplifting portrait of a truly colorful and most unusual New York character. Brash, foul-mouthed, and no-nonsense, Sister Helen Travis is not your typical saintly soul. A recovering alcoholic who lost her husband and sons to substance abuse, she single-handedly fights her own war on drugs as director of a halfway house for recovering addicts in NYCs South Bronx. Filmmakers Rob Fruchtman and Rebecca Cammisa put their fly-on-the-wall, cinema verité technique to expert use as they vividly capture the complex love/hate relationship between this tough-as-nails nun and the men who both fear her and rely on her to help them battle their own inner demons. Inspired by Sinatras "my-way-or-the-highway" mantra, Sister Helen runs a tight ship in which everyone must obey her rules and the hand that writes them. For the residents who wish to permanently kick the habit, this sobering dose of tough love may be their last and only hope.