Tuesday, March 19, 2013

For the Greater Glory (2012)

For the Greater Glory, also called Cristiada, tells the story of the Mexican  Cristero War of 1926-29 from the points of view of the general who led the Catholic army and the young boy who becomes his protegé. Andy Garcia plays Enrique Gorostieta, the Freemason and agnostic who is moved by his love for his devoutly Catholic wife to become commander of the Cristeros in their struggle against the violent atheism of the Calles regime which restricted religious practice. Mauricio Kuri portrays St. José Luis Sanchez, the mischievous altar boy who, after seeing his parish priest (Peter O'Toole) shot by government soldiers, joins the Cristeros. José is eventually captured and tortured by the federales, who promise him his life if he will only deny Christ. The martyrdom of the young boy is one of the most moving scenes in any film that I have seen. For the Greater Glory is filled with such scenes, making it a film which challenges the integrity of each individual by urging them to ask themselves how much they are willing to give for God.

In every respect, this movie shines. The characters are nuanced and well-developed, the sets and scenery are authentic and stunning. The story-telling is never maudlin and the sound track is bold yet ethereal. There is a great deal of violence but not enough to make it unwatchable. It reminded me of one of the great epic films like El Cid or Spartacus. Most of all, For the Greater Glory shows strong men of faith defending religious freedom. Santiago Cabrera depicts Father Vega the warrior priest, who ministers to the Cristeros amid their often heartbreaking military campaign.

 The New American has an apt assessment:
“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King.”) That was the rallying cry for millions of Mexicans during the second and third decades of the 20th century, as revolutionary governments, modeled after the Bolshevik regime in Russia, unleashed round after round of persecution and terror throughout Mexico. For Greater Glory, the newly released epic film starring Andy Garcia and Eva Longoria, provides a stirring introduction to the “Cristero War,” or “Cristiada”  (1926-1929), a heroic chapter of Mexico’s history that, until now, has been almost virtually unknown in the United States (as well as in Mexico, where the government has suppressed true reports of the persecutions and all favorable mention of the Cristeros, who finally rose up to fight for religious liberty).

The wholesale raping, pillaging, destruction and desecration of churches, torture and murder of Catholic priests, closing of Catholic schools, the takeover of education by anti-Christian propagandists, and other outrages initiated by the regime of President Plutarco Elias Calles, ultimately drove the long-suffering Mexican people to take up arms against the dictatorial oppressor. Tens of thousands — mostly peasants — joined the Cristero army, led by Gen. Enrique Gorostieta (played by Andy Garcia in the movie). Although poorly armed and usually outnumbered, the Cristeros repeatedly inflicted decisive defeats upon Calles’ army. Unable to defeat the Cristeros militarily, Calles resorted to diplomatic treachery, suing for peace and promising to restore religious liberty. Hundreds of Cristero leaders who accepted his amnesty and laid down their arms were tortured and executed; thousands of Cristero supporters were hunted down and murdered. It is to America’s everlasting shame that our White House and State Department not only aided Calles in this deception but also provided him with arms and airplanes, while blocking all attempts by the Cristeros — Christian freedom fighters — to buy arms and munitions. In so doing, the U.S. government aligned itself with the anti-Christian forces that have been initiating communistic revolutions throughout the world since that great atheistic prototype, the French Revolution of 1789.

Although Mexico is overwhelmingly Catholic (and was even more so at the beginning of the 20th century), the Mexican Constitution of 1917 reflected the Marxist and anti-clerical zeitgeist of the Bolshevik Revolution of that same year. In addition to confiscating all property (churches, schools, universities, hospitals, monasteries, convents, rectories, etc.) of the Catholic Church, the new Constitution placed draconian restrictions on Catholic worship and Catholic clergy, forbidding priests, bishops, and nuns even to wear their religious garb in public, on pain of fine and imprisonment.

For Plutarco Calles, the anti-clerical provisions of the revolutionary constitution were insufficient; he illegally added his own more brutal measures to augment it. Although For Greater Glory does portray on film some of the cruel reality and barbarism of Calles’ attack on Mexico’s Catholics, it understates the depravity and the viciousness of his pitiless campaign. (Read entire review.)
 I agree, as I said above, that the film is actually incredibly restrained when it comes to showing violence in light of some of the atrocities which actually took place. Sadly, it was American arms which aided the Socialist Mexican government in its fight against the Cristeros, leading to the eventual defeat of the freedom fighters. This film is a step in the right direction and I hope it inspires the younger generation to study on their own the history which formal education may have denied them.

The Real General Gorostieta with His Bride



julygirl said...

As I watched this film it struck me that repression of that kind could happen even in our "Land of the Free" if our government officials decided something was "undermining" the government. Scary!

MadMonarchist said...

When that happened our local border city down the road made it into the book of world records for having the most bishops of any city in the world due to the influx of Mexican bishops fleeing the Calles tyranny. Things are of course better know (at least on the religious freedom front) but I was still disappointed to see the PRI recently return to power across the river. That was the party that sprang from Calles and his stupidity.

Gareth Russell said...

It sounds very much like Mexico's Vendee.