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Viva Cristo Rey!
on June 1, 2012
This is an excellent film, but read no further if you are concerned about "spoilers"....
As explained by Steven Greydanus,"The 1917 Mexican Constitution included harsh anticlerical provisions that went unenforced until the regime of Plutarco Elías Calles....In 1926, Calles introduced legislation -- the 'Calles Law' -- specifying penalties for violating the constitutional prohibitions: Clergy could be imprisoned for criticizing the government, fined for wearing clerical garb in public, and so forth. Calles also moved to seize Church property, close Catholic schools, seminaries and monasteries, and deport foreign priests" (National Catholic Register, 5/29/2012).
I particularly enjoy historical films and have grown accustomed to learning that certain characters in these films can be composites or created for dramatic impact. I guessed incorrectly with this film: "At the center of director Dean Wright's sprawling epic stand two remarkable figures: retired but restless military hero Gen. Enrique Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), a religious skeptic who becomes the unlikely commander of those taking up arms in the name of faith, and Jose Luis Sanchez (impressive newcomer Mauricio Kuri), a saintly adolescent volunteer in Gorostieta's forces who, decades later, was beatified for his role in the struggle....Out to defy the government by peaceful means is another real-life character, also since beatified, Anacleto Gonzalez Flores (Eduardo Verastegui). A pacifist lawyer, Gonzalez is sometimes referred to as `the Mexican Gandhi'" (John Muldering, Catholic News Service)
Greydanus speaks to what will be this film's enduring relevance: "Visiting Mexico earlier this year, Pope Benedict XVI highlighted ongoing restrictions on religious freedom in Mexico's Constitution. In the United States, the U.S. bishops have made a top priority the defense of religious freedom against encroaching federal tyranny....The magnitude of the conflict around religious freedom today is something no one could have predicted when production began on For Greater Glory. Some might call the film's timing providential" (National Catholic Register, 5/29/2012).
It was largely because of that "providential" connection that my wife, myself, and two friends chose to respond to a call to see "For Greater Glory" on its opening night. Including ourselves, it was disappointing that there could not have been more than 20 people in the theater of our suburban multiplex (Interestingly, the six middle aged men sitting behind us later confirmed that they themselves were priests.). I will pray that the poor showing does not signal a poor interest in the topic of religious freedom.