Priest's tale kickstarts a holy row

Preview by Jack Foley

MEXICAN cinema continues to set new standards in both daring bravado and controversy with the release of El Crimen del Padre Amaro (The Crime of Father Amaro), a film about a priest who falls in love with a teenage girl.

Starring the rapidly emerging star, Gael Garcia Bernal (of Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También), the movie is based on a Portuguese novel by Eca de Queiroz and has been updated to contemporary Mexico.

Prior to its release in its homeland, the movie courted all manner of controversy, with Luis Morales, the head of the Mexican Bishops' Conference, claiming that it made fun of 'the most sacred religious symbols of the Catholic community', before protesting 'firmly and openly' about the content contained within.

Riots were also predicted outside some cinemas, particularly given that 90% of Mexico's population is made up of church-going Catholics. But the gamble appears to have paid off, for the movie is one of the most successful of all time in Mexico.

El crimen del Padre Amaro earned over 31 million pesos in its first three days, breaking the previous record for a Mexican film, ironically set by Bernal's Y Tu Mamá También, even though it opened in over 100 cinemas more.

This is no mean feat for a Mexican film, particularly when compared with the likes of Box Office giants such as Spider-Man, which debuted with a colossal 80 million pesos in its first weekend in Mexico, with twice as many copies in circulation.

Needless to say, Bernal has defended the content and believes people should see it before criticising it. He claims the controversy has arisen because 'it is an honest movie'.

As a result of the affair, the young parishioner with whom Father Amaro has an affair gets pregnant, and he advocates an abortion. In the meantime, fellow clergymen dabble with drug traffickers and leftist guerillas.

Conservative Catholics maintain the content is 'grotesque', with one group reportedly filing a lawsuit against the federal government for partially funding the film. They allege that the film is in violation of Mexico's constitutional protection from religious persecution.

Its director, meanwhile, hit back by dismissing claims that the movie is an attempt to harm the Catholic Church. He maintains that 'the church is hurt, not by the existence of priests who are fictional characters in a movie, but those made of flesh and blood who commit illegal acts."

As yet, there has been no release date set for the film's debut in the UK or US cinemas.

RELATED LINKS: Click here for the movie's website...
Click here to view the trailer...

PAST FOREIGN LANGUAGE/INDIE PREVIEWS: Williams develops a darker reputation. Click here for One Hour Photo...
The most frightening horror since The Shining? Click here for Frailty....
Irréversible, a life-affirming film about rape? Click here...
28 Days Later. Click here...
Talk To Her, the new Almodovar. Click here...
Lantana, one of the movies of the year? Click here...
Trouble Every Day, French vampire/cannibal flick. Click here...