Bringing the Cristero War to the Big Screen
For Greater Glory's producer talks about the religious-liberty-focused film.
BY TIM DRAKE
| Posted 5/28/12 at 12:31 AM
Pablo Jose Barroso is a real-estate developer, but, more recently, he has become a film producer. In 2005, he produced Guadalupe. Last year, he produced the animated movie The Greatest Miracle. His most recent work, For Greater Glory, tells the story of the Cristero War in Mexico. The film features actors Andy Garcia, Peter O’Toole, Eva Longoria and Eduardo Verastegui. It opened April 20 in Mexico and will debut June 1 in the U.S. Barroso spoke about the movie before the film’s debut.
What prompted you to make For Greater Glory?
I’ve always been Catholic. I’m a real-estate developer who had an encounter to be closer to God. Through that, I learned that the way to share God’s message is through mass media. Pope John Paul II said that we need to be using the same language that the culture is.
I produced Guadalupe in 2005 and a children’s film, but I had my heart set on something larger. With the Cristero [War], we had the opportunity to do a larger Hollywood film. We knew it would be difficult to get the actors, director, music, but it came out beyond my expectations. The Holy Spirit’s timing is amazing. This was supposed to be ready last fall, but was delayed because we wanted to make a shorter version. When the Pope went down to Mexico recently to celebrate Mass, the Senate finally changed the Mexican Constitution. The Senate approved changes to Article 24 of the Mexican Constitution on March 29 guaranteeing freedom of religion. The timing of the film is relevant, given what’s happening in the U.S., in Egypt and elsewhere.
When did you begin work on the film?
At the end of 2008, we started seeking a good script. We had received several from the same period. It’s history that is not even that well known to many Mexicans. We utilized the work of a French historian who had interviewed many Cristeros [the rebels who fought against the Mexican government’s persecution of Catholics in the late 1920s]. Steve McEveety [executive producer of Braveheart and producer of The Passion of the Christ and We Were Soldiers] recommended screenwriter Michael Love to me.
We wanted a director who could make the story entertaining. We ended up getting Dean Wright, who had worked on Titanic and The Lord of the Rings, who wanted to do something for the Lord. He loved the project. Everyone who got involved with the project was very moved by the story.
What was the reaction by preview audiences?
We showed the papal nuncio from Mexico the film. He was very moved. Bishops and cardinals in Mexico and the U.S., some historians and others have seen it. Their reaction is a desire to do something better for our faith, for the Lord and for the country of Mexico.
The Mexican government set up its own church, deported all foreign priests, and made the sacraments unavailable. Even after the war ended in 1929, each local governor continued to enforce the constitutional anti-clerical laws in different ways. It took a long time for this to change. Officially, priests couldn’t wear religious vestments in public until 1998. … We now have the opportunity to worship God freely.
How do most people in Mexico view the Cristero War today?
I think that it [teaching on it] was something that was banned. Many afterwards were killed, and many were afraid to talk about it. As a child in Mexico in the 1970s, I didn’t learn anything about it. I should have learned more. As I go around the country, even where the war occurred, people don’t know about the conflict. This will be new to at least 70% of the people in our country.
Tell me about the film.
It’s a great experience because it takes you to that period and beautiful country, with its art and settings. It’s a story of hope, of freedom and of heroism. The film tells the story of the pacifist movement, a group of people who were trying to change things in Congress peacefully, as well as the story of a former general who is recruited to organize the Cristeros into an army. You also see several of the martyrs, including Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio. In the end, it’s about people standing up against oppression and dying for Christ. My hope is that it will give viewers great hope.
What do you hope viewers take away from the film?
I think that, culturally, we’re not being congruent with our religious beliefs. We are not standing up for our faith. We’ve been tolerating things that are wrong. It seems as if it’s easier for people to be against God than to claim him as their Creator. In this Year of Faith [to begin in October], the Holy Spirit can help people to be more faithful. If only one person who doesn’t believe in God sees this film and reflects on him, that is my best hope.
Given the current fight for religious freedom going on in the U.S., do you see the release of the film as God’s timing?
Yes, it was frustrating and difficult not to have the film released when I wanted it, but the Lord’s time is not our time. The movie is about conscience. No one ever wins when religion is oppressed. As believers we need to band together. This is the perfect time for this film. Hopefully, it will help wake people up to the things that are taking us from God. In the end, this will harm us. We have to be faithful.
The film was originally titled Cristiada. Why was it changed?
It retains that name in Mexico, as the people fighting for Christ were called Cristeros by the soldiers. More people are familiar with the name in Mexico, but in the U.S., people weren’t fond of it because it didn’t mean anything to most.
When and where will the film be opening?
It opens April 20 in Mexico and June 1 in the U.S. It will be opening in the top 100 markets. The film is being distributed by Arc Entertainment and will be on more then 700 screens. If it’s not playing in a particular market and people want it, they can use the website (ForGreaterGlory.com) to let us know.
Tim Drake is the Register’s senior writer.
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