New film documents the" Monks of Vina" in Tehama County

VINA, Calif. - A movie about the 21 Cistercian-Trappist monks who live at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina will soon be in theaters.

It's a documentary that will premiere Thursday at the Napa Film festival.  The film explores the rituals and curiosities of monastic life.

It's called "The Monks of Vina," a documentary by Bay Area-based filmmaker John Beck.  It was filmed this past year at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Tehama County.

The film reveals what Beck calls the extreme sacrifice and devotion required in a quest to become closer to God.

But the film is also about wine-making, which was the initial impetus behind the filmmaker's project.  He looks at how wine-maker Aimee Sunseri's business relationship with the monks and its culture that has developed over her 11 years turning this 15-acre vineyard into popular wines.

"I'm anticipating people getting a behind-the-scenes look at a monk's life," said Sunseri.  "Also in connection with a really heavy time of the year of work, which is our harvest."

Lifting a veil on the spiritual side of wine-making, the film explores how she and the monks teamed up to develop property, once owned by railroad baron Leland Stanford, into a successful business venture.

"They have incredible faith in many, many things," said Sunseri.  "And they had faith that we could produce a quality product."

Along the way, the film allows the viewer to meet these rather normal men who lead most abnormal lives of poverty, obedience and chastity.

Father Paul Mark Schwan is the Abbot and New Clairvaux, he hopes the film will educate the public about their monastic life.

"How all of this fits together as one as a prayer, yet as a piece, a part, of our relationship and our contribution to our world," said Schwan.

After "The Monks of Vina" premieres in Napa this week, it will be shown at the Abbey where the monks will see it themselves.

There are plans to show the film inside theaters up and down the Northstate so the public can see it as well.

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