Wednesday, December 11, 2002

"El Crimen del Padre Amaro"- this ain't no Thorn Birds hon

Director Carlos Carrera's film takes full aim at the hypocrisy and corruption of the Catholic Church in Mexico and boy howdy is it having an effect. Based on a novel by 19th century Portuguese novelist Eça de Queirós, the film revolves around Father Amaro, played by Gael Garcia Bernal, and the setting is Mexico. Bernal's newly ordained priest comes to the town of Los Reyes to work with Father Benito. Soon after arriving Father Amaro begins an affair with a 16-year-old girl and we learn that Father Benito has been receiving funding from a drug lord for a health clinic. The film could have just been a two hour soap opera but Carrera has made it a wake up call. Apparently attempts have been made to keep it out of theaters in Mexico. Not surprising since the film basically says the Church cares more about money than people. But nothing is that simple in this film.

For cinematic shock value the scene in "Pink Flamingos" where Divine eats shit is tough to surpass but in one scene in this film a character takes the Holy Eucharist from her mouth and feeds it to a cat. Offensive, blasphemous.... funny? Fortunately Catholics aren't prone to issuing a fatwa against Carrara because we wouldn't want him to go into hiding. I think the thing that resonates most about this film is that none of the characters are one dimensional- they are all so beautifully flawed, so... human. The film forces you to question what is moral. Father Natalio, played by Damián Alcázar, who is suspected of assisting guerilla troops against the wishes of the Bishop, is actually the one priest in the film who seems concerned for his flock. So on one hand he is rejecting the mandates from the Church and yet he is the character with the most integrity. I suggest those who go see this film check their beliefs at the theater door and approach this film from a secular point of view.