How working with children suffering cancer changed his life forever
Scriptwriter, director, and producer Paco Arango was born in Mexico in 1967, into a family of Spanish origin. At the age of five he moved to Spain and, since then, has always had a home in the north of Mallorca. “I feel I belong to this island. I also had a Mallorcan girlfriend who marked me for life and who is still my best friend today,” he says.
Arango studied filmmaking in Boston and Los Angeles. He recorded five albums as a singer with Sony Records and in 1999 he founded a television production company with which he made, among others, the famous series ‘Ala…dina!’ However, 17 years ago, he felt the need to get involved in some solidarity cause “to return the luck that I had had” and began working as a volunteer with young children suffering from cancer at the Niño Jesús Hospital. That changed his life forever, leading him to create the Aladina Foundation in 2006, designed to make the lives of children and adolescents with cancer and their families happier and better. It currently serves more than 1,500 children.
In 2007, Paul Newman invited him to become a member of the Board of Directors of the Serious Fun Children’s Network, which has camps around the world for children with serious illnesses, where they can have fun and be children, forgetting their disease for a while. “The doctors themselves state that this experience helps children both in their recovery and through chemotherapy. Besides being a great actor, Paul was a real angel. He created a food brand, ‘Newman’s Own’, which gives all profits to charities and, to date, has generated 540 million dollars in donations,” Paco explains.
Later, in 2011, Paco wrote and directed his first film ‘Maktub’ with Warner Bros, in which he wanted to portray what he had learned from the children, and for which he was nominated three times for a Goya. Fundraising from the film financed one of the most advanced bone-marrow transplant units in Europe: the Maktub Center for Bone Marrow Transplantation at the Niño Jesús Hospital in Madrid. Currently, 171 transplants have been performed. “I’m a filmmaker. When I work I move away from the hospitals, it’s the only time I’m not with the children. I will always do charitable movies because all my income will go to help them,” he says with passion.
Paco decided to repeat this experience with ‘Lo que de verdad importa’, titled “The Healer” in English, which is 100% charitable in all its premieres throughout Spain and internationally in the USA, Mexico, England, and other European countries. The proceeds will make it possible that each summer, the Foundation Aladina can send more than 120 Spanish children suffering from cancer to these camps, without any expenses for the families.
“It’s a magical movie. I shot it in Canada with British actors of the likes of Jonathan Pryce (‘Game of Thrones’) and Americans like Jorge García (‘Lost’) and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (‘Emerald City’). It’s that kind of cinema that will not only enchant and inform you but also all your money will help a sick Spanish child. It has never been so easy to do good,” he declares. The film is about a man who is unaware of the fact that he has the gift of healing; a sick teenager (Kaitlyn Bernard) will help him reconsider the meaning of his life. It’s a cheerful film for the whole family with a positive and hopeful message. Paco wrote the final song, inspired by a 14-year-old girl who thanks Paul Newman. It has also become the anthem of the camps.
The title in Spanish is taken from the Foundation ‘Lo que de verdad importa’, of which Paco is a spokesman and the goal of which is to transmit values to young people.
Soon Arango will surprise us with two more movies which are in planning, in which international actors and scriptwriters will participate – some of them boasting Oscar awards. One film is called ‘11%’ and takes place in New York, and the other is a romantic comedy which will unfold in Colombia. More magic awaits us.
Photos by Sara Savage