Andy Garcia’s new movie—co-starring Peter O’Toole and Eva Longoria—is an epic story of freedom that Hollywood would not make.
“It’s a completely independent film,” Garcia told CNSNews.com. “It is being distributed independently and it’s being financed independently.”
And it is the true story of men and women—and children--who lived 90 years ago in Mexico and whose struggle for liberty could echo powerfully in the United States today.
The movie is about the Cristeros, a group of reluctant and unlikely rebels who rose up against the government of Mexican President Plutarco Calles after he outlawed the free exercise of religion for Mexican Catholics.
Some of the heroes in For Greater Glory are Mexicans who in real life were literally martyred for their faith—and who have since been beatified by the church. Among these is Jose Sanchez Del Rio, a teenage boy, who joined the pro-Catholic guerilla forces ironically led by the skeptical and mercenary general whom Garcia depicts in the movie.
Del Rio is who Saint Thomas More would be if he were brought forward in time to the 20th century, moved geographically to Mexico, and placed into the body of a 14-year-old child. For Greater Glory is A Man for All Seasons of the 21st Century.
In the mid-20th century, however, Hollywood not only made A Man for All Seasons, it gave it the Academy Award for Best Picture.
In 2012, no Hollywood studio would touch For Greater Glory. They would not make it. They would not distribute it.
Like A Man for All Seasons, For Greater Glory tells the story of what happens when a government is determined to force people of faith to act against their consciences—and they resist.
“It’s a fight for religious freedom, but really a greater umbrella it sits under is the concept of absolute freedom,” Garcia told CNSNews.com. “There are countries all over the world right now that are still fighting, in the middle of a fight for those rights, and people have been deprived of those rights.
“We have to remind ourselves that these are precious things that we enjoy here in America, but these rights were fought for here also and that we need to preserve them,” Garcia said.
For Greater Glory was conceived, written and filmed before the controversy arose in the United States over the regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services that will require virtually all health-care plans to cover sterilizations, contraceptives and abortifacients without any fees or co-pay. This is a regulation the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called an “unprecedented attack on religious liberty” and that many bishops have described as an unjust law “they cannot—and will not—obey.”
CNSNews.com asked Garcia if there was a timeliness in the release of For Greater Glory in that Americans today are talking about the same question Mexicans were talking about in the 1920s: Can government order people to act against their faith?
“There could be a parallel drawn there. Sure,” said Garcia.
“There seems to be a coincidence that these things are being discussed and debated right now,” said Garcia. “It wasn’t planned out to be that way when we made the movie, and there are similar issues being discussed even in Mexico today in relationship to the church and the state. So, it’s a coincidence, and it’s important, too, I think, to recognize that if you don’t agree with something you have the right, you must, we must, have the right to protest.”
When asked whether he agrees with the Catholic bishops that the HHS regulation would force Catholics to act against their faith, Garcia comes down on the side of individual liberty.
“My feeling is this,” he said. “I think the bishop, just like the businessman … should have the right to make those decisions freely and that’s what I believe in.”
“Whether you agree with them or not, you must respect each person’s individual decision,” he said. “I don’t think the state, sadly, should be necessarily involved in those things that are personal decisions.”
Garcia says the Hollywood of today would not make For Greater Glory and doubts it would make A Man For All Seasons either—but not because of its presentation of religion.
“I’d be surprised if they’d make that movie today in Hollywood,” he says of the 1966 Academy Award winner.
“Not because of its religious concepts,” he says. “Historical dramas--they don’t feel they do well in the box office.”
The demographic such a movie would attract is not what Hollywood movie studios are looking for, says Garcia. If they have the choice to spend money on The Avengers or A Man for All Seasons, or For Greater Glory, “you can imagine where the safer bet for them is.”
Even though it was not written or produced by a Hollywood studio, For Greater Glory looks and sounds like a great Hollywood classic of an earlier era made even better through the power of modern film-making technology. And there is a good reason for that: Not only does the film feature some of the industry’s greatest stars, but also some of its greatest craftsmen.
Dean Wright, who directed the movie, is a special effects expert who previously worked on films ranging from Titanic to The Lord of the Rings to Inspector Gadget. James Horner, who composed the score, also wrote the music for Avatar and Braveheart, and won two Academy Awards for his work on Titanic, including best original score and best original song---“My Heart Will Go On,” co-written with Will Jennings and recorded by Celine Dion.
Despite this off-screen talent—and the on-screen talent of Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole and Eva Longoria—no Hollywood studio agreed to distribute For Greater Glory. So Arc Entertainment, which distributes independent films, will bring it to theatres nationwide.
Will the true-life story of humble men and women willing to face death rather than surrender their freedom to a government ordering them to act against their faith defy the marketing models of modern Hollywood?
When soldiers sent by President Plutarco Calles tortured 14-year-old Jose Sanchez Del Rio and demanded that he deny his faith, he looked them eye and said: “Viva Cristo Rey.”
It happened in Mexico on Feb. 10, 1928. On June 1, it will be in a theatre near you.