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El Crimen del Padre Amaro

This is the love month and what better way to start the season is to look back on this film about love, lust, and sin…

El Crimen del Padre Amaro” (The Crime of Father Amaro) is a 2002 Mexican film based loosely on the novel “O Crime do Padre Amaro” (1875) by the Portuguese writer Jose Maria de Eça de Quieroz. It was directed by Carlos Carrera and starred Sancho Garcia, Ana Claudia Talancon, and Gael Garcia Bernal.

At the start of the movie, Padre Amaro, a newly ordained priest, arrives in the small town Los Reyes and starts his life serving the church. He is a protégé of a ruthless political bishop. Meanwhile, the local priest, Father Benito, harbors an affair with a restaurant owner and builds a large hospital which is partly funded by a drug lord. On the other hand, another priest in the area, Father Natalio, is under investigation for supporting rebels in his church. Padre Amaro soon meets Amelia, a local sixteen-year-old girl who teaches catechism to young children in the town. In the beginning, there is awkwardness between the two which later blossoms into a secret love affair. This love proves to be fatal. As Padre Amaro tries to hide his secret and the fruits of this secrecy, he finds himself tangled into a complicated web of events – Father Benito’s ailment, the lies to the bishop, the excommunication of Father Natalio, and the hypocrisy of the cynical old woman. The movie ends in a heartbreaking funeral, as Padre Amaro saves his face and rebuilds the fallen community…

This is a beautiful movie and certainly one of my favorite Mexican films. It succeeds in building up the characters through fragments of revelations that make it very exciting. I find myself thrilled in the beginning to see Padre Amaro and Amelia falling for each other, and later hating them for all their lies and irresponsibility. You will love them in the beginning, but eventually condemn and pity them. There are also characters in the movie which seem nuisance, but perform a significant part in the end.

The actors are also very brilliant. Anna Claudia Talancon, who played Amelia, is truly a face of innocence in disguise. Gael Garcia Bernal is great as well. He starred in many great Mexican films like “The Motorcycle Diaries”, “Amores Perros”, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, and “Rudi y Corsi”, which are all successful, multi-awarded, and top-grossing movies. Bernal is one of the best non-Hollywood actors, very comparable to Aamir Khan of India and Tony Leung Chiu Wai of China.

The movie has a universal theme – about love and its consequences. It has well described love in its many facets – love for wealth, love for materials, love for the community, and love for the flesh. Though based on an 1875 novel, the movie is set in modern times, which makes it more relevant and appealing. Consequently, the film arose several controversies, particularly on the part of the Roman Catholic groups who desperately and unsuccessfully tried to stop the movie from being screened in Mexico.

The movie is well-received not only in Mexico but also in many parts of the world. It is one of the top-grossing foreign language films in recent history. It was also nominated for a total of 32 awards with 19 wins, including a nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in both Oscar and Golden Globe in 2003.

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