For Greater Glory (2012)
The Blu Ray and DVD releases of For Greater Glory are coming out on September 11, 2012. For Greater Glory tells the story of the Cristeros who bravely fought for religious freedom and the Church in the 1920s in Mexico. I heartily recommend this film. The above video is Father Robert Barron’s insightful review of the film. (I believe he is too sanguine as to the effectiveness of purely non-violent movements in the face of regimes who don’t care how many people they kill, but that is a debate for another day.) The below video has additional remarks by Father Barron on the film. Go here for my review of the film. Continue reading
On June 15, a book tied in with the For Greater Glory movie will be released by Ignatius Press. Bearing the same name as the movie, it is a history of the Cristero Movement. The author was recently interviewed by Zenit:
ZENIT: Neither a film nor a ZENIT interview is sufficient to explain all the historical intricacies of such a complex epoch. Still, could you give us a brief overview of the Cristero War?
Quezada: The Cristero War is a chapter in Mexico’s history in the 1920s, when thousands of Catholics answered this crucial question [of religious freedom] at the cost of their very lives. President Plutarco Calles launched a direct attack on the Catholic Church using articles from Mexico’s Constitution, which created this uprising and counter-revolution against the Mexican government during that time. The original rebellion was set off by the persecution of Roman Catholics and a ban on their public religious practices.
There are two important dates to point out here.
The persecution began on Aug. 1, 1926, when the government re-enacted the penal code and forced the closure of all Catholic churches throughout the entire country with its new anticlerical laws. However, the first coordinated uprising for religious freedom did not occur until Jan. 1, 1927.
It was not until mid June 1929 when the truce was officially signed, bringing an end to the Cristero War.
ZENIT: Is For Greater Glory a historically accurate film?
Quezada: Apart from some “artistic license” the film is essentially accurate.
ZENIT: The movie alludes to some discrepancy between the Vatican’s position regarding the religious persecution, and that of the Cristero fighters. Could you explain this?
Quezada: When the oppression was about to begin, the Vatican granted permission — requested by the Mexican bishops — to cease any Catholic religious services in order to avoid confrontations. Additionally, the Holy See wrote letters to the government requesting they abolish the Calles Law. The government ignored each request. As the war intensified, Rome continued to have direct communications with President Calles to ask for leniency. Not only were Vatican officials [in Mexico] dismissed, but diplomatic relations were broken off by the government. Lastly, Pope Pius XI wrote an encyclical letter to the clergy and the faithful of Mexico to give them courage and hope during this persecution. There was really not much else the Holy See could do. On Nov. 18, 1926, the Pope sent the encyclical letter Iniquis Afflictisque (On the Persecution of the Church in Mexico) to offer prayers and encouragement during this difficult time. Continue reading
The hard working film mavens of Just Seen It give For Greater Glory an enthusiatic review in the video above. It is one of the more perceptive reviews of the film that I have seen. The two reviewers come at the film from a purely secular viewpoint and had little if any knowledge of the Cristero War prior to viewing it. The message of religious freedom that the film conveys is obviously the most important part of the film, but even leaving that aside the movie is a masterpiece of the filmmaker’s craft.
Ed Morrissey at Hot Air saw a rough cut of For Greater Glory back in March, so I was curious to read his review, and here it is:
For Greater Glory tells the story of the Mexican government’s attempt to stamp out the Catholic Church under President Calles (played by Ruben Blades), and the uprising that followed, a civil war that killed 90,000 people. Calles attempted to enforce the anti-clerical laws put into Mexico’s 1917 socialist Constitution by demanding the expulsion of foreign priests, banning public demonstrations of faith (including the wearing of clerical garb), and making criticism of the government by priests punishable by five years in prison. A boycott organized by the Catholic Church prompted Calles to get even tougher, and open war broke out. Enrique Gorostieta (Andy Garcia), a general who had fought for the winning side in the revolution, chose to lead the Cristero rebellion, and the film focuses mainly on Gorostieta, two of his lieutenants, and a young boy named Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was later beatified by the Catholic Church.
Back in March, I was fortunate enough to see a rough cut of the film, and wrote a semi-official review at the time (from which I borrowed the synopsis above) with the caveat that I would wait to see the theatrical release. Last night, my wife and I saw it in its limited Twin Cities release, and the final cut has significantly improved the narrative flow of the film. One of the few areas of concern I had from the rough cut was the difficulty in following the constant shifting between subplots in the first half of the film, and some ambiguity about the intent in some scenes. Those problems were resolved nicely, with additional footage in some areas and smoother transitions throughout. Continue reading
Here is a translation of a letter from a granddaughter of General Gorostieta, who is portrayed by Andy Garcia in For Greater Glory, to Andy Garica. Go here to read the letter in the original Spanish. Hattip to commenter Rogelio Núñez Ruiz. Translation is by my hard working and deeply appreciated better half Cathy:
[Opening commentary by Fernando Banuelos, Editorial Director of the Cine 3 film news website:]
Letter from Maria Teresa Perez Gorostieta to Andy Garcia about Cristiada [AKA For Greater Glory ]
This is an emotive letter sent by Maria Teresa Perez Gorostieta, granddaughter of General Gorostieta, to Andy Garcia for his role in Cristiada. Although I’m not a fan of Mexican films, especially Mexican history films in another language and with non-Mexican actors, I believe that this film falls in the “top-priority must-see” category of films, just to see what they say about us, and to see how faithful this adaptation is to what history tells us.
[Maria Teresa Perez Gorostieta's letter follows:]
I saw the film last week, and I enjoyed the character of my grandfather, even though I don’t share the legend that he was an unbeliever and converted in the Movement; it seems to me that [portraying him that way] brings him to people in a better way than if they had portrayed him as being too religious.
I congratulate you for having accepted the role on behalf of my mother, who unfortunately died 4 days before they finished filming it; she was happy that it would be you who would interpret it. His death scene is lovely and, as the Bible says, the applause that counts is in Heaven, and the whole family is there, so that the Glory of the Cristeros is now that they’re with God.
I don’t know if you read the letters which we sent to you through the Director, but I believe that my grandfather had the arrogance with which you characterized him, and the tenderness he showed his people. He had a great love for his family:
[Quoting a letter from General Gorostieta to his family:]
“For my little children, who I can’t give a kiss to, who I can’t buy a ball for, who I can’t, as I did so often, let sleep in my arms, on such a great date for the world, on a day in which even wild beasts become tender with Glory!, by your conduct I send them this gift: all the privations which they suffer, all the sorrows which you and I suffer, are only obedient to one end – leaving them a road, marking for them a route. I know well that there are smoother roads in the world, and God well knows that I know how to walk them. But those aren’t the ones that I will leave marked for them. It’s the same bitter, gloomy road that their grandfather marked for me, the only one that exists, if one is to be forever content to have finished it and able to give an account of the journey. The only one which, having been walked, imparts true peace. I give them as a gift, the privations and the sorrows which the road is giving me. Give them many kisses, and never rest from preventing – I don’t say now, but [even] within many years – that they should lose their faith on such a road.” Continue reading
A Fugitive: I have a question, Lieutenant. When did you lose your faith?
A Lieutenant of Police: When I found a better one.
The film For Greater Glory has reminded me of director John Ford’s forgotten The Fugitive (1947). Very loosely based on Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory (no priest in an American film in 1947 was going to have the moral failings of Greene’s whiskey priest) the film did poorly at the box office and soon fell into oblivion, except among film critics who regard it as one of Ford’s more interesting works. Ford said it was his favorite film.
The film is set in a nameless country, obviously Mexico where the movie was filmed, where religion has been abolished by the government. Henry Fonda is the last priest hunted by a police lieutenant, played maniacally by Pedro Armendáriz. Armendariz is a whole-hearted convert to atheism, and views the capture of Fonda as a noble task. Continue reading
Archbishop Charles Chaput of the Philadelphia Archdiocese has written a column which appeared on May 29th whole-heartedly recommending that Catholics see For Greater Glory:
Earlier this week we celebrated Memorial Day. For most of us, the holiday informally marks the start of summer. Over the next three months families will take their vacations, the pace of life will slow a bit and people will have a little more precious time to relax and restore their spirits.
The purpose of recreation is to renew us in body and soul; to give us time to think; to reconnect us with family and the gift of being alive. For me, that usually means a week of fishing with friends, catching up on a pile of good books and enjoying a few good movies.
And since all good things are meant to be shared, I can already recommend — in fact, enthusiastically recommend — a film that no Catholic should miss this summer.
“For Greater Glory” opens in select theaters this Friday, June 1. Written, directed and acted with outstanding skill, it’s the story of Mexico’s Cristero War (also known as La Cristiada, 1926-29). Largely ignored until recently – even in Mexico – the war resulted from Mexico’s atheist constitution of 1917, subsequent anti-religious legislation and fierce anti-clerical persecution by the government of President Plutarco Elias Calles, who came to power in 1924. Continue reading
No one, surely, Venerable Brothers, can hazard a prediction or foresee in imagination the hour when the good God will bring to an end such calamities. We do know this much: The day will come when the Church of Mexico will have respite from this veritable tempest of hatred, for the reason that, according to the words of God “there is no wisdom, there is no prudence, there is no counsel against the Lord” (Prov. xxi, 30) and “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matt. xvi, 18) against the Spotless Bride of Christ.
Pius XI, INIQUIS AFFLICTISQUE
I knew that my viewing of For Greater Glory was going to be something special when two Dominican nuns, in habits, came out of the showing before the one my family and I attended and one of them remarked to me that it was a very powerful film. I replied that we were looking forward to seeing it. Well, that wasn’t completely true. My worldly, jaded 17 year old daughter would much have preferred to have been back home killing zombies online with her internet chums. By the end of the film she was weeping over the scene in which 14 year old Blessed José Sánchez del Río, stunningly portrayed by Mauricio Kuri, was martyred. I did not blame her. I have not been so deeply moved by a film since I saw The Passion of the Christ.
Before we go any farther, I should announce the obligatory spoiler alert. I will be mentioning plot elements that people who have not seen the film might not wish to have revealed to them. For those wishing to continue on, if you have not read my initial post here on the historical background of the Cristeros War, you might find it helpful to look at it before reading this review. Continue reading
We wish to pay a special tribute of praise to those members of the clergy, secular and regular, and of the Catholic laity, who, moved by burning zeal for religion and maintaining themselves in close obedience to this Apostolic See, have written glorious pages in the recent history of the Church in Mexico.
Pius XI, Acerba animi
The film, For Greater Glory, the heroic story of the Cristeros who fought for the Church and religious liberty in the twenties of the last century in Mexico, is opening on June 1. Go here to read my first post on the film and the historical background of the Cristeros War. I have found some new video clips online from the film. The video at the beginning of the post shows Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, portrayed by Andy Garcia, and his family being turned away from a Church closed by the Mexican government. Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, not a believing Catholic at the start of the struggle, would eventually become the leader of the Cristeros.
In the above clip Father Christopher, portrayed by Peter O’Toole, rejects the counsel to flee from government troops by Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio, portrayed by Mauricio Kuri. Captured by government soldiers during the Cristeros War, Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio refused a command to renounce his Catholic faith by shouting out “Death to Christ the King” and was murdered by his captors. He shouted Viva Cristo Rey before he died and, according to an eyewitness, drew a cross on the ground with his blood and kissed it before he died. He was 14 years old. He was beatified by Pope Benedict on November 20, 2005. Continue reading