When I first heard “For Greater Glory” (originally titled “Cristiada,” which I prefer) was being shot, I was stunned — and skeptical. It never could be produced by Hollywood. In fact, it wouldn’t be a theatrical release, maybe a short documentary, certainly with a small budget. On the former, I was correct; it was made in Mexico. On the latter, I was wrong; it’s a full-fledged major motion picture with grade-A talent. And it’s wonderful.
The cast includes Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Peter O’Toole (in a cameo role as a murdered priest, the octogenarian is splendid), Ruben Blades and Mexican star Eduardo Verastegui.
The movie depicts the Mexican Cristero uprising against the military dictatorship of President Plutarco Calles between 1926 and 1929. Calles was an ardent anti-Catholic in a nation dominated by Catholics. At his command, Catholic churches were shuttered, and Mass was outlawed. Many priests were murdered.
The most famous moment in the struggle, not depicted in the film, was the martyrdom of Padre Miguel Pro. Calles ordered a firing squad to shoot him in 1927, with the heart-wrenching final moments (Pro kneeling in prayer and then standing, his arms extended in the sign of the cross as bullets shattered him, and then shot point-blank when the fusillade didn’t kill him) photographed by order of the “presidente.” Padre Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.
I was shown the early trailers because of the family connection. My grandfather Will Buckley Sr. was a strong supporter of the Cristeros. A devout Catholic with business interests in Mexico and an ardent love of that country — so much so that he planned to move his family there — Buckley provided materiel aid to the impoverished peasants. Some things we know to be true. He was targeted for assassination; his oil leases were expropriated by the government; he was expelled.
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You know nothing of this uprising? Not to worry. Virtually no one does. That included the primary actors.
Slant Magazine pans the film for “solemn speechifying,” the “overstuffed cast of characters” and the “half-baked material.”
But how historically accurate is it? Here are some historical facts. More than 90,000 died. Dozens have since been canonized by the church, including 25 by John Paul II alone. The young boy was Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, who was tortured with his heels slashed before being made to walk to his execution. “He cried and moaned with pain,” stated an eyewitness. And then he was shot dead.
The “most token anti-Catholic gesture,” which would have saved his life, was his refusal to shout “Death to Christ the King,” instead proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey!”
Jose was 14. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
It is still illegal to celebrate Mass outdoors in Mexico.
Contact L. Brent Bozell III through www.creators.com.