|Archival photo of Jose Sanchez|
God, I love this movie. History: Americans have not been told that Communism, in the style of Soviet Russia, was raging in Mexico at the same time as the Soviet Union was born (1917-1929). While The Soviet Union kept its power until almost 1990, Mexicans fought against their government and won. They fought because part of Communism was the extermination of "the opiate of the masses," religion. The religion of Mexico is and was, Catholicism. Just as in Russia, priests were slaughtered and resistance was crushed. But in Mexico the rebels organized and won their religious freedom in three bloody years.
Personal: If you've read my blog for any time you know that I am a person of faith and that my faith helps me to become a better teacher as well as better in my other roles in life. I am unapologetic about this. While this movie is overtly Catholic, it is fundamentally a human story that shows the power of love and courage against oppression. Children who are bullied feel an overwhelming helplessness against their oppressors and some of these children die. How encouraging if they were to see a film like this and know that whole countries can be the bullies at times, yet there is always hope and love eventually wins the day.
When I was coming of age my generation was trying to make sense of The Holocaust. I grew up in a neighborhood where some of the grandparents had tattoos on their arms from the camps. I remember them showing me those marks, but it wasn't until years later that I knew what they meant. After "Roots", the second major mini-series ever produced (to my recollection) was "Holocaust." Both of these films try to make sense of the horrors of our past in order to blaze a trail into the future. Here are scenes from those films.
The Meaning of the Film
Atrocities are constantly happening in our world and brave men and women are standing up and fighting. How wonderful to have a film that gives Mexicans a way to remember their Christeros and for the rest of us to aspire to be like them, should the need ever arise during our lifetime.
Christianity is still violently opposed in China and parts of The African continent. In remote countries of the Middle East, Islam is supplanted by ethnic tradition and being fought for with courage. I encourage you to stand up for what is right and live a brave life. Viva Christo Rei!
Musically, James Horner takes most of Leonard Bernstein's melody for "One Hand One Heart" from West Side Story and makes it the central theme for the film's score. The score is a huge, sweeping, and lush one with a full brass section, loads of strings, and broad gestures. I enjoyed the music for the most part, but the underscoring was at times distracting and not fitting with the action although it fit with the emotion. I would have appreciated leitmotifs for each character and/or story line, perhaps instruments for different settings. Let's take for example Andy Garcia's character of the general. He could have standard and comfortable orchestration with lots of strings when he is safe and home with his family, more guitars and brass and no fiddles when he's in the mountains, and a military assortment of drums, trumpets, and screeching strings during battle. The orchestrations were done by 4 different people and the music seems rushed. I've heard better from Horner and, quite frankly, I was disappointed in this from him. Although he didn't ruin the film, his score won't be one of the many Oscar nominations I expect from For Greater Glory!