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CANNES, May 19 — American actor Harvey Keitel is to star in a new film about the Portuguese peasant children who saw visions of the Virgin Mary 100 years ago in Fatima, its producers said yesterday.

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The announcement at the Cannes film festival comes after Pope Francis canonised the two child shepherds Jacinta and Francisco on the centenary of the first reported apparition tomorrow.

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“Fatima” will also feature the Brazilian actress Sonia Braga.

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US producer Gary Hamilton of Arclight Films said the script “remains true to (the apparitions’) miraculous message. The story of Fatima is what real-live legends are made of”.

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The Virgin Mary is said to have confided three secrets to the children, then aged 7 and 9, who both died later in the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic.

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The first two secrets were interpreted as foretelling a world war and the dangers of Soviet communism. The third secret has long been kept a mystery.

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But the sanctuary’s importance grew after Pope John Paul II credited the Virgin of Fatima with saving his life after he was shot by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in 1981 on the anniversary of the first reported apparition.

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The bullet that struck the pope was later placed in the golden crown of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima.

Tomorrow’s canonisation ceremony in the small town, now a global pilgrimage site, drew about half a million people, according to the Vatican. — AFP