VIDEO: The Crime of Father Amaro (2002)

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One of the most controversial Mexican films ever made, The Crime of Father Amaro (original title: El crimen del Padre Amaro) is about a 24 year old priest (Gael García Bernal) who’s sent to a church in a small town. His arrival sets off a chain reaction of thorny politics, sexual relationships, and betrayal, after he falls in love with an underage girl. Renegado dives in to find out if the controversy is enough to make the film worth watching.

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  • Muthsarah

    Did the old (crazy) woman refer to her local priest as “padrecito”?  Now, I’m neither Mexican, nor Hispanophone, nor Catholic, nor church-going, but if a young clergyman arrives in town to take over church services, would the community elders typically look down on him as “our little father”, or is that just a term of affection, and not of implied condescension?  Does Amaro start out in a position of social superiority, being that he’s a priest, or is he just “the new guy”, tolerated, but not respected, given his youth and inexperience?

    I don’t see what would be so controversial about this movie, at least based on your review.  A young man becomes a priest, but suffers a pretty big moral lapse when exposed to temptation for, perhaps, the first time, and tries to cover it up rather than throw away everything he’d work for as well as potentially ruin his girlfriend’s reputation.  Is it that we are meant to imply that NO priest would EVER give in to the temptations of the flesh, or that NO priest would EVER do anything wrong whatsover?  This guy did, he seemed to admit to it (dunno, haven’t seen the movie), which…umm…is more than…umm…some OTHER priests of late have done…when caught doing far WORSE things than have affairs with (potentially freely) consenting sixteen-year old (female) parishioners…yeah….

    Yeah, they’re human, and thus fallible, not that that makes their lapses automatically OK.  Priests aren’t above sin, even though they are (or at least should be) held to a higher standard of ethical behavior given the trust the community is expected to hold in them.  If they mess up badly, they probably should be defrocked, as they should no longer be considered worthy of such trust or responsibility, but the end of your review implies that he confesses his sins.  Or is the controversy that the story supposedly makes ALL Catholic priests look bad, and corrupt, like criticisms centuries-old (hello, Lutheran background)?  Does the Catholic Church in Mexico have a zero-tolerance policy towards any perceived public criticism, and/or does it hold the position that all priests should be above suspicion?

    Now, if Amaro was my local priest (bit of a stretch, that), I would certainly hope he were exposed and defrocked for doing what he did.  To have an affair with someone you shouldn’t (which for a priest, I guess would be anyone) would be a pretty glaring sin, but taking her to a back-alley abortionist and getting her killed, rather than just admitting to what you did and taking responsibilty for the child (since abortion is clearly a sin in the Catholic church) would be the far worse crime.  Here in the US we have a saying: “it’s not the scandal that kills you, it’s the cover-up”.  If you’re caught doing something bad, but you admit to it early, don’t fight it, and beg forgiveness, the public will usually let it go.  But from what I see here, I guess Amaro was too afraid of the consequences and sought the easiest (if potentially riskiest) way out, thinking he’d get away without a scratch.  Does the film give us the impression that he was acting out of fear for himself or genuine concern for his girlfriend, or did he really believe that covering it up was the best thing for all, even though it would be hiding two sins and setting a pretty awful precedent for his future as a priest?

    • “Padrecito” is indeed just an affectionate term, doesn’t exactly mean anything like “our little father”. And yeah, Amaro starts in social superiority, just for being a priest, the controversy is merely an exaggeration from the church thinking this movie gave them a bad name, which really itsn’t, I mean, you could argue they show how some bishops and priests are corrupt beyond rapair and some “good communities” are just a false facade.

      He should be exposed, but corruption (Which sadly is quite frequent in Mexico) won’t let that happen, most Mexican catholics would rather ignore the negative situation and just pretend it’s not happening.

  • Russell Brin (Facebook Sux)

    After Mexico, Philippines is the second most predominately Catholic country in the world.  Probably not much of a surprise, since both were Spanish colonies, although Catholicism has long since faded from its former glory in Spain.  A movie like this is interesting in the extent that a lot of new priests do come from either Mexico, the Philippines or parts of Africa, as opposed to Europe or North America, so clearly it has more local resonance than other places where the Catholic church isn’t so prominent.

    A good review, interesting movie.  I might be baptized Catholic but I don’t go to Church, so it doesn’t really resonate for me to any degree other than a story of a person conflicted.  I won’t watch the movie, but do appreciate the review of it.  I hope that makes sense.