Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
Filmmaker Daniel Rabourdin spent four years making The Hidden Rebellion. His efforts paid off handsomely. This is a first-rate, powerful work that unmasks the wolf of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity for what it really meant two centuries ago in the French Revolution, plus the film strongly shows how the story is as timely as today’s headlines about rampant political tyranny, political correctness, and religious persecution rise around the globe.
The film has been endorsed by Father Mitch Pacwa and Alice Von Hildebrand.
Beautifully made, The Hidden Rebellion focuses on the architects of the French Revolution inflicting a war of extermination in 1793 on the Vendean people, their countrymen in the peaceful Vendee region of rural western France who wanted to retain and practice their Catholic faith. But the fanatical revolutionaries were seizing church properties and stifling religion.
The Vendeans fought back courageously. They stood up to the persecution with perseverance and love for the Church and family. The conscripted French army outnumbered them tremendously and went on to slaughter 150,000 and upwards of the native population of 800,000 beginning with clergy, nuns, men, women, children, and even babies with government orders to mercilessly eliminate these people who would not worship the revolution beast. It only ended when Napoleon came to power and put a stop to it.
Until recently, this brutal genocide within France was suppressed in the history books. You can read more of the story here when this film was in the making.
The Hidden Rebellion is a special kind of movie called a docudrama because it interweaves dramatic re-enactments and historical facts told over striking visuals, with short segments focusing on historians and experts who put the history, significance and ramifications inter perspective.
For the French experts there are excellent voiceovers. One narrator at the beginning of the film has the authoritative, totally trustworthy tone that reminded me of documentaries narrated by Ricardo Montalban.
The many dramatic reenactments were actually filmed in numerous places where the real events of the corageous resistance to the genocide going on happened. Quite a number of the actors, who are professional reenactors there, took part in the filming. Several of them were actual descendants of the Vendeans who had given their lives for the Church in that terrible time.
The story is often told through the eyes of a loving husband and wife separated by the onslaught of the French soldiers who kill their child. The effect draws us into the events in a personal way as we get to know these people suffering for what they strongly believe in.
The result is a brilliant, dramatic history brought to life, and a reminder of what could happen, and did in following years and other places when, as the historians tell us, powers decided to create a “new man” by wiping out the past to do so.
We’re told they have to “repress the church” and “usurp the power the family” has always had. “They decide what reality is and want it to conform to them…”
One professor reminds us that “what is baffling is we still have people today who want to build the ‘new man’. They believe in the gender theory, for example. They use a lot of theories — theories that time after time are proven false. But they are always the latest chatter in the media — and even in the government.”
Another observes such regimes “think they have extinguished the concept of God” and as despotic governments set themselves up as “both the political and moral power.”
But the story of the Vendees coming to light at this time shows they did not struggle or die in vain — they always kept faith in God and their Catholicism alive.
A Word from the Producer Director
Before The Hidden Rebellion is shown on EWTN on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 10 pm Eastern Time, Daniel Rabourdin who produced, directed and co-wrote the script had a conversation with me about it.
Rabourdin was born and schooled in France but has lived here over 25 years, much of his life. He’s an American citizen. For 16 years he was a producer at EWTN. His additional credits include hosting an EWTN series called Theology of the Table.
He is relieved to say four years with this filmmaking project have not proven in vain because 95% of projects either don’t get produced or end up not being shown. “Most of what you see,” he said, “was depending on providence and good will.” After using all his own money he had to raise the rest for production to continue.
Although sections are grim and sad, Rabourdin injected hope into many spots. He explained it this way, “In our spiritual lives, we have ups and downs, trials and failures. The story contains all of that. It has a balance of the human life with its valleys and the mountains.”
He brought out that “most of the actors are practicing Catholics and worked for almost nothing. One of them donated his salary.” That was a noble gesture showing how much they believed in the need to tell this story now.
Why did he make the film?
“I come from almost another universe — where hyper-liberals and socialists and communists have succeed for almost 200 years from the French Revolution,” he said, referring to growing up for over 20 years in France. “Don’t be surprised if only 4 % are practicing Christians in France. So I’m one of the Last of the Mohicans in France! If you are Catholic in France, you are an underground Church — not as terrible as in China.”
He gives these personal examples. When it comes to taking a test to enter college, you “will still fail to enter college if at the end of high school you don’t play the game of hiding your faith. That’s the world I come from.”
“When I came to America I found a weight off my shoulders with not as much cultural pressure. Now I return to France almost once a year and find my mother and sisters in the faith living again under that pressure. It’s even worse today. And that has been lasting for 200 years. You don’t even realize it if you are a tourist.”
“So of course now I see the same oppressions increasing in America. I feel like I am blowing a whistle.”
What are some things that make this film so timely?
Rabourdin explained, “Political correctness is becoming not a negative word. It should be called political and tyrannical correctness.” He said to “look how the cultural powers — most of the education, most of press, most of the artists have redefined and taken away the quality of dignity and replaced it with equality in everything. But there is no absolute equality. There is an absolute equality when it comes to our essential dignity. But there are inequalities that are natural.
“But today if you say that, you are categorized — you have prejudice, you have hate. With the political tyrannical correctness we are in a state of cultural oppression. It was the same for the French Revolution leading to the way of terror four years later. In Paris for example, you could not address people as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’. That made you suspicious. You had to address them as ‘citizen’. So it was extremely oppressive, a tyrannical that is over the words and the thought.
“At an early stage of the tyranny you can be defined as a racist or a criminal, and from there you will have physical violence exerted against you. During that a true crime is being left untreated by the world. Justice becomes ideological.”
What do you hope your film accomplishes?
“I think we have to learn lessons. The lessons are we have to cultivate the more community love amongst ourselves.” He said we have to follow Scriptures refers to John 13:35: This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
“Why? Because part of the problem is that destructive forces of society are become more numerous than the constructive forces. One of the ways to maintain numbers of constructive forces is to do what were supposed to do.” He said one way is to show friendship coming out of church. “When you come out of church and see people alone and single…they should be welcomed at a community lunch. Most people not married eat alone every night. This should not happen.”
Then Rabourdin said people should “value intellectual and political formation [in line with] the social teachings of the Church.” The “forces of destruction are strong on those. So it’s a work of apologetics. St. Paul said we should be ready to testify our faith…The Catechism is amazing for formations.”
He suggested that we should read three apologetic books every year “because we watch 20 movies and plenty have values against our Christian faith.” The books written by the architects of the French Revolution “were the books read by the cultural elite. Today’s elite Hollywood writers and actors are given da Vinci food as intellectual food, and that’s all they know about the Catholic Church. We must build up again respect for creative people and the arts but be always vigilant that creation of what is beautiful fits with the canons of what is Truth.”
Here’s the bonus. The version shown on TV is a little over 57 minutes to fit the format. But the DVD is the director’s cut and run 75 minutes, so that includes “bonus” scenes and interviews.
From the preview, no one who watches this film should remain unmoved or untouched.