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Torture, Beheading, Christ and Satan: New Mexican Films Stir Up Culture Wars

ReelPolitik By Anthony Kaufman | ReelPolitik May 25, 2012 at 9:51AM

New Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas' Cannes entry "Post Tenebras Lux" isn't on its surface a political film. But according to an Associated Press report, and taken together with the highly politicized climate surrounding violence and religion in Mexico and the U.S., it might get drawn into ongoing cultural battles. At the same time, a new film about Mexico's Cristero War called "For Greater Glory," starring Andy Garcia and Eva Langoria, which opens in U.S. theaters on June 1, has become a rallying cry for the Roman Catholic Church.
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New Mexican auteur Carlos Reygadas' Cannes entry "Post Tenebras Lux" isn't on its surface a political film. But according to an Associated Press report, and taken together with the highly politicized climate surrounding violence and religion in Mexico and the U.S., it might get drawn into ongoing cultural battles. At the same time, a new film about Mexico's Cristero War called "For Greater Glory," starring Andy Garcia and Eva Langoria, which opens in U.S. theaters on June 1, has become a rallying cry for the Roman Catholic Church.

Post Lux

While Reygadas's "Lux" features glimpses of a Satan-like character, and concerns struggles over sin and redemption, Cannes' critics have been more perplexed by what the film is trying to say than identifying it as an anti-religious screed. But according to a recent A.P. report, Reygadas seems to acknowledge the film is, in part, an ode to a bleeding country. One of the film's most startling images involves a man literally pulling his own head off. The director said he chose the image "because the country is suffering and it is a powerful image of suffering," he told the A.P. "I'm sure many Mexicans have had such images in a dream. For sure it's the world record of beheading in our country. It's close to us, unfortunately."

Such stories of beheading are addressed in "For Greater Glory," which was backed by a devout Catholic and chronicles a revolutionary uprising in the 1920s against the Mexican government set off by the persecution of Roman Catholics and a ban on public religions practices. Many priests were rumored to be either shot or beheaded during the period. 

According to a story in The Washington Post, the film depicts scenes of torture and violence against Catholics, and is being used as a tool in the U.S.'s current culture wars. “’For Greater Glory’ is ‘must-see’ viewing for all those who care about faith and liberty today,” wrote Carl A. Anderson, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, which put the film on the cover of its members’ magazine.

“It is a top-flight production whose message of the importance of religious freedom has particular resonance for us today,” added Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez.

While Andy Garcia, in an interview, said the movie "was not done as a piece of propaganda,” another actor in the film, Eduardo Verastegui, speaking to a conservative website, compared President Obama to one of history’s most famous oppressors of Catholics, King Henry VIII.