By JANE WILSON, Special To The Bulletin | Published December 14, 2006
Released to coincide with the 475th anniversary of the visions of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the new film “Guadalupe” is an interesting mixture of history lesson and sentimental family story.
Written by Roberto Girault and directed by Santiago Parra, “Guadalupe” is framed by the story of a brother and a sister. Jose Maria and Mercedes were raised by their grandmother in Spain after their parents left them as children. The grandmother’s death opens old wounds for the pair. Jose Maria is in a troubled marriage and finds it difficult to be a true partner to his wife; Mercedes is afraid to let anyone become close to her. The siblings, both archeologists, take a well-timed opportunity offered by an old friend to go to Mexico to research the phenomenon of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Once in Mexico, the pair learn the history of the visions and see the vital force the story still plays in the lives of the Mexican people. Although their methods seem at best haphazard, and the film never really makes clear exactly what the pair hope to achieve with their research, this storyline does allow “Guadalupe” to focus on the story of the miracles, and this is by far the most fascinating part of the film.
A series of flashbacks shows how the Blessed Virgin appeared to Juan Diego on the hillside of Tepeyac and asked him to appeal to the bishop for a church to be built for her on that spot. The film illustrates the story of how the famous image appeared on the poor man’s tilma and how the bishop was moved to fulfill the request.
In addition to the flashbacks, “Guadalupe” shows Jose Maria and Mercedes discussing the apparitions with both scientific experts and members of the community. The film is notably inclusive, as these experts include members of both the Jewish and Islamic faiths. Through these discussions, many details are revealed of the miraculous nature of the image and how important the Virgin of Guadalupe is to the people and the faith history of Mexico.
When the film returns to the present-day trials of Jose Maria and Mercedes, the story becomes predictable and a little trite. It is sweet and well-meaning, though, and the scenes in which Mercedes and her friend Diego attend the festival of Guadalupe are often delightful. Ivana Miño as Mercedes, Fabián Robles as Diego, and Angélica Aragón as Juana give natural and affecting performances in these sequences. Most inspiring is the evidence of the power that this miracle still has in people’s lives almost 500 years after it occurred. The film shows this in the celebration of the faithful who follow the pilgrimage to the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe.
By the end of the film, the siblings have learned to open up their lives to others, and this is represented as yet another miracle of Guadalupe. “Guadalupe” is not a perfect film, but it is touching as a story of faith and is fascinating as a history lesson.
For more information about the movie, which has a limited run in the Atlanta area, go to www.guadalupethemovie.com (English) or www.guadalupelapelicula.com (Spanish).
Jane Wilson, a local writer and movie enthusiast, holds a doctorate in English from the University of Georgia. She is a parishioner at St. Pius X Church, Conyers.