Romero
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84 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on February 28, 2003
The most unlikely of heroes, Romero, with owlish glasses and demeanor, is reluctantly thrust into a role much like Thomas More almost five centuries earlier.

20th century El Salvador, like 16th century England, is enduring bloodshed and havoc. Insurgent Communist rebels compete with paramilitary squads and the oligarchy for control of the tiny Central American nation. Priests and the flock they lead are caught in the middle. Those who cry for justice are photographed and marked for extinction because they speak the language of Marxism.

Archbishop Romero recognizes that Marxists and the ruling oligarchy are merely obverse sides of the same coin-- ideologies who rule by force contrary to the the rule of God.

He is equally harsh with Communist sympathizers as he is with the paramilitary squads who rape, torture and execute advocates of justice and human rights.

Like a nail driven into wood, Romero meets each new situation, bewildered at first, but rising to the occasion with increasing faith, anger and determination.

In one scene, he arrives at a church which has been turned into an army barracks. He announces that he has come to remove the Blessed Sacrament. A belligerent soldier responds by unloading a round of bullets into the tabernacle and shatters the crucifix hanging above the altar. Romero stands transfixed, astonished at the utter desecration, then leaves. He pauses outside where a crowd has gathered, unsure as he himself is what he will do next.

Suddenly, collecting his courage, he wheels around. He brushes past the insolent soldier and stoops to gather the consecrated wafers in trembling hands. The soldier fires another round above Romero's head. Undeterred by the gunfire, the intimidation, and the soldier who shoves Romero with his boot, he completes his work then exits.

But he isn't finished. He returns yet again to restore the church to its rightful owner--the people of God. The soldiers in their turn stare blandly at the audacity of this meek soldier of God who dares to stand up to their jackbooted authority and in his turn expel evil.

Archbishop Romero fights every battle his Redeemer once fought: the apathy of the elite, the treachery of those in power, and betrayal within his own ranks. One of his own priests reveals that he carries a weapon. Romero angrily and loudly denounces him because "You lose God just as the others have!" Another parishioner denounces Romero for betraying their class by "forcing" her baby to be baptized along with "all those indians."

This video should stand next to A Man For All Seasons. Raul Julia, like Paul Scofield, has memorably portrayed one of the Church's most celebrated martyrs.
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54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 4, 2002
Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, had the courage to live the teaching of Jesus, even though this meant alienating the rich and powerful who oppressed, tortured, murdered, and defrauded the poor of that nation. He stood in the pulpit of the national cathedral and urged soldiers to obey their Lord and disobey commands of oppression. He paid for this, taking a bullet to the heart while blessing the wine during mass.
This movie portrays the story of a quiet, bookish man who stood in the gap between the machine of dehumanizing globalization and the children of Jesus. We watch him wrestle with discovering an authentic Christian response to the injustices and oppression prevalent in El Salvador. We see him reprimand all those who would practice violence, whether as military authority, rebels, or institutionalized violence that robs people of their humanity and ability to feed their families.
The movie was filmed in Mexico, not Hollywood. Raul Julia deserved an Oscar for his performance as Romero. Mexican extras bring a feeling of authenticity that could not have been realized in Hollywood. The telling manages to avoid most of the "splatter" depictions of violence that most box office draws include, and by so doing, makes the violence even more heinous.
This is a powerful story, whether you are Christian or Pagan, Marxist or Capitalist. It is superbly told. This is the story of a person finding his authentic place in the midst of a struggle for justice.
(If you'd like to discuss this review or video in more depth, please click on the "about me" link above and drop me an email. Thanks!)
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2004
Through this imperfect movie, I learned to love a saint.

The movie depicts Oscar Arturo Romero from his new appointment as El Salvador's archbishop until his murder while saying Mass in 1980. Between those endpoints Romero experiences the poverty of his people and their suffering at the hands of the military government. More and more, he takes an active role in opposing the brutalization of his people, opposing also his bishops who preferred to deal with purely spiritual matters. But Romero's vision of the gospel doesn't let him off so easy. To live as a follower of Jesus means encountering the Cross. Romero comes to see that avoiding "politics" means abandoning the poor and oppressed to their tormentors.

Raul Julia does a creditable, if somewhat plodding job of portraying the Archbishop. Julia doesn't quite get down to the interior fire that drove Romero to a date with martyrdom. Romero's real speeches are fiery and poetic, qualities that Julia's Romero does not seem able to capture.

In spite of its shortcomings, "Romero" delivers a stirring portrait of a man who risked all, opposing his institution's placidity in the face of evil, challenging its reluctance to engage the world as well as his sacrificing own inclination to live quietly.
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45 of 53 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 16, 2001
Oscar Arnulfo romero,reluctant martyr and hero will one day be officially canonized a saint. In much of central and Latin America he is monsingnor romero,the one and only true hero that el salvador has ever known. This movie produced by the late lamented Fr. Ellwood keiser{known as the hollywood priest for his ability to get big name stars to work for scale},was under obvious budget constraints.This might be the most catholic movie I have ever seen,though many would not view it as such. It tells the story of Romero, a quiet bishop, who, as a compromise,is elevated to be archbishop of San Salvador{the equivalant of cardinal of new york 50 years ago]. The eight familes{the name given to the oligarchy that ran[runs] the country} celebrated. here was a man they could manipulate,who would bless the armed forces,condemn the "radical elements$Q,and restore the status quo. All was well save for one thing:Romero changed. His friend{and "radical element"} fr Rutillio Grande{wwonderfully played by the late Richard Jordan}was asassinated along with a poor farmer and a young boy.From then on,and early in this movie, Romero becomes transformed.All seven sacraments are portrayed in this film{trivia,perhaps, though they work seamlessly} Romero trudges foward,though it becomes apparent to all what his ending will be. Raul Julia is simply wonderful as Romero{wearing a pair of the archbishops actual glasses] Tony Plena is ,as always, superb, as a tortured priest{interesting, in America a conscience striken portrayal of a cleric is always sexual}Harold Gould is fine as a member of the"eight families". As fine as this movie is, i was left wanting more. This is an excellent portrayal of what can only be descrbed as a saint.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2004
I have a basic tenet that this country (the US, I mean) needs more socially conscious (or even downright political) cinema. In recent years, new technology has led to more and more flash in the movies but decreased substance. Many critics lay the blame for the current trend toward cinematic escapism to the current political climate, and there's certainly some truth to that assertion. But it's just as likely that American moviemakers just have too many toys at hand to concern themselves with grown-up themes.

This 1989 film, though filmed in English and starring a major cinematic figure (the late Raul Julia), was certainly not a typical Hollywood production. It was reportedly produced by the Paulist Fathers and funding in part came from donations by concerned Catholics. It's a "small," film but certainly compelling. Some have lamented the film's relative predictability. But, of course, screenwriter John Sacret Young and director John Duigan were limited by the actual facts of Romero's life. There may have been ways of putting a little more punch into the plotline, I suppose, but overall the facts of Romero's life are riveting enough.

In the classic social drama, the political awakening of the hero is a pretty standard theme. Think NORMA RAE or THE CHINA SYNDROME or COMING HOME from the 1970s (the last gasp of social consciousness in American film, it seems). As in those films, the hero Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador is something of a political naif. A bit timid and bookish, he is promoted to the archbishopric because he seems among the least likely clergy to rock the boat. His gradual transformation to a champion of the poor and oppressed comes about when fellow priests are murdered and tortured and he sees the brutality of his country's repressive government for what it is. As a man of principle and a man of God, he has no choice but to act.

The film's greatest strength is, in fact, its presentation of Romero's transformation as painful and conflicted. Once welcome at the mansions of the very rich, he has become a social and political pariah by the film's end. He has also become, in a very profound way, much more of a man of God.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on December 12, 1999
This is one of the most inspiring movies that I have seen. This picture shows Archbishop Oscar Romero's gradual transformation from the government's puppet to the people's hero. I recommend this movie to those who are concerned about man's inhumanity to man. It is an eye opener for those who are not convinced that atrocities are still committed so close to our nation. Most of the events in this film takes place in El Salvador between 1979-1980. This movie was rated PG-13 because of some graphic content. Parents should definitely watch this movie before their children, and exercise appropriate discretion. While this picture carries a powerful positive message, it is not for the squeamish or those who may get depressed pondering the fate of victims of brutality. However, if you like this film as much as I did you should check out "The Mission". This review was based upon the VHS Tape version.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 15, 2008
Raul Julia's performance is deeply moving and perhaps unforgettable as the Archbishop Romero whose assassination shocked the world. ---- This film is a brutal yet beautifully done reminder of what people have suffered and are suffering in other countries, people who do not have the daily blessings we enjoy in the United States. ---- The political issues are obviously complex, and the controversy about "liberation theology" goes on, but the story of this one man, so well adapted here, is something that we should face. The film moves slowly, yet gracefully. It is starkly realistic and at times raw and chilling, and overwhelming. The faith of Romero, his transformation in the face of the suffering he witnesses, is an inspiration. ---- The film can make one very uncomfortable for giving us a view of a world we would like to put out of our thoughts, either because we feel helpless or we simply don't want to accept how good our lives are here, and how much has to be done for the world's poor and the world's oppressed. This is very strong, this material, and it is worth seeing for Julia's performance alone. It should move us to action, even if action is no more than a small donation for the poor. The film has left me deeply troubled, but better for having seen it.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2006
I watched this movie again today, for at least the 5th time, and, as always, it quickly brought tears to my eyes. This film describes how an individual can allow himself to be transformed by events into taking a firm, courageous stand in the face of those who desire to use whatever force is necessary to retain their position of privilege. If this were an American film, the protagonist might go out a purchase a .45, and would then proceed to seek and destroy his oppressors. Romero used a different approach - he employed his spiritual / moral authority. There is a particular scene in "Romero" that vividly portrays his creative use of spiritual power. After he is kicked out of a church by the military, Romero & his orderly drive away and return with Romero's vestments (the robes he uses to perform the mass). Romero puts on his robes and then he and his orderly begin a slow, deliberate march towards the church. A crowd of townspeople see what Romero is doing, and several fall into line behind him. This is all spontaneous but quite deliberate, and, with Romero at the lead, they approach the church door, where a soldier waits, and as they approach the soldier lifts his gun and shouts at them to stop. Romero continues past the soldier, who drops his gun, and he and the townspeople re-take the church.

Romero's example, while powerful, did not take root and grow, and El Salvador continued to experience civil war. This approach is also not pre-dominant in our own American culture (in general, we continue to prefer the use of brute force), but it's out there, as a robe, waiting to be donned.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2000
This is not the type of video you rent for a one time viewing, you have to own it so you can watch it several times and share with friends. The story is simple. A scholarly, non political priest is surprisingly named the arch bishop of el salvador("A nice compromise choice"). Eventually he realizes that he must take a stand against this violence and oppression, as a result he is loved by the salvadoran people and it also leads to his assasination.
One must understand the political situation to better appreciate this movie. El salvador was on the brink of civil war and the sandanista takeover in nicaragua brought panic to the military and wealthy landholders as they feared the same thing happening in el salvador. It was only with the military assistance from the united states that kept el salvador from falling to revolutionaries. What makes this movie so special is that it goes beyond the superficial political issue of that time of whether the US should be aiding the military. It's mans inhumanity to man and it is all our responsibility to fight against it. Romero is against all violence including that initiated by the revolutionaries.
This movie is powerful and violent. It has to be violent to tell the story but what is depicted in this movie is mild compared to what really happened there. The quality of the production is mediocre and it's obviously a low budget affair. Many of the same extras and tertiary characters appear regardless of where the scene supposedly takes place(aquilares or san salvador). The acting is solid but not spectacular. It is raul julia's romero who steals the show with an oscar caliber performance. The fact that the movie was produced by a religious order of the catholic church(the paulists) is a plus. The most moving scene is when romero and the people of aquilares take back the local cathedral from the military by courageously walking into the church and beginning a mass. The people got the courage to do this when romero risks his life to gather the blessed sacrament(consecrated communion hosts) from the church alter. Another powerful moment is when like jesus in the garden of gethsemene, romero painfully prays at the grave of his fallen friend contemplating his imminent death. "Take me i'm yours" he says. I doubt if such scenes would ever make their way into a hollywood production but they should because romero was a catholic bishop. There is also a paternalistic view that the church alone can help these people which is something of a negative. There is also an attempt to demonstrate all the various views of the situation. In addition to the church, the military and the guerillas one sees the views of the aristocracy, the government and the indifferent. Violence affects all in this film not just the poor or the church. That's not the case in other films about this period like oliver stone's "salvador" which goes so far as to depict the guerillas as if they were freedom fighting hippies.
Over all this is a great movie. I would recommend it to any adult but catholics especially will find it moving.
...................socks
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2007
The previous reviewer missed a large part of the point of this film. Archbishop Oscar Romero was among dozens of Catholic priests, religious and lay people murdered or tortured for their Gospel witness of support for the poor. The greed of the wealthy is the prime villain in the peice--and the repeated comment that "we want to live like the North Americans" helps viewers to understand what inspires that greed.
Church prelates were on both sides of the conflict, and Romero himself came to his position as a result of becoming archbishop and seeing first hand the terrible suffering of the poor because of the civil war in El Savlator. An inspiring portrait of the witness that is still being carried out by martyrs like last year's Sister Dorothy Stang--who, like Romero, was murdered for her stand in solidarity with the poor.
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