Faith is a powerful thing. Through faith lives are changed, causing people to rise above themselves to accomplish the extraordinary. That is the kind of faith that inspired the real life heroes, played by a cast including Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, and Peter O’Toole, in For Greater Glory.
For Greater Glory tells the story of Mexican religious persecution in the 1920s. The government, fearing the power that the Catholic Church held over its land, waged a violent war on those who sought to break its newly enforced laws forbidding public worship. Their actions inspired men, women, boys, girls, and even priests to both violent and non-violent resistance. While the film doesn’t gloss over the atrocities of war on both sides, it has its eye firmly set on the incredible things that the resistance is capable of through their faith. Many are willing to give their life instead of disavowing their faith, and those who have never fought are capable of waging a war against their nation’s entire army.
The movie is unearthing a part of Mexico’s history that has been expunged from many school books, and it is both a story that deserves to be told and a lesson to be remembered. “I felt so embarrassed that I didn’t know this period of time in my own country,” said Eduardo Verastegui, who plays a peace keeping member of the resistance. For Eduardo and his fellow native cast members, the movie is a chance to “go back in history and learn from the mistakes that we committed.”
Many members of the cast met and communicated with the families of the characters that they portrayed. Academy Award nominee Andy Garcia played General Gorosteita, a decorated and thoroughly non-catholic general who joins the resistance to fight for religious liberty. “Last week I got a letter from the granddaughter of Gorosteita,” Garcia recalls, “she wrote me a very beautiful letter saying that she was very emotional in watching the film and the fact that the film honored her grandfather, and that she felt from her point of view that for many years his endeavors and commitment to this fight had never really received any credit.”
The movie was shot on location at many of the places where actual events took place, which is an effort that came with great risks and great rewards. It wouldn’t be a stretch to label some of the circumstances of the shooting as extraordinary. First time director Dean Wright remembered some of the tougher moments: “There were no covered sets, which meant we were exposed to the weather. We finished on schedule to the day. We left his incredible place where the camp was, the next day the hurricane went through. We were [in a city] for two and a half weeks, the day after we left the road collapsed, there was no way in or out. That’s the kind of… protection we had.”
Andy Garcia and Mauricio Kuri
Mauricio Kuri, the teenage actor who played the youngest member of the Cristeros army, reflected on the other events surrounding the film: “God arranges things, God works in mysterious ways.” Mauricio doesn’t believe in coincidences, and it surely seems that divine intervention played a role in him landing the part of Jose Luis Sanchez. In only his second movie and first starring role he manages to steal several scenes while playing the dedicated small-town boy who becomes an essential part of the resistance. He was discovered in the harrowing final days of a long, worldwide casting search. “We couldn’t find Jose, we couldn’t find him,” said Dean Wright. They were getting nervous as the shooting date loomed closer and closer. Mauricio’s audition began as more of a favor for a friend, but it became much more than that. After he did the scenes, Dean recalls that they all looked at each other and said “It’s no question, he is Jose.”
“He’s a very smart actor, he doesn’t need a lot of help from me,” said Andy Garcia, “He’s a very talented kid so it was a joy.” In order to get ready for the role Mauricio studied the characters’ history, took classes in Bible, went on missions, and found ways to grow in his own religion. His character became an inspiration for his own life: “He was fourteen and he was willing to give his life for Christ? Would I have done the same thing in those times?” said Mauricio, “He’s Mexican, and I thought, why don’t people know about him, because his life is beautiful!”
For Greater Glory is a film that unearths an unpleasant, but infinitely inspiring piece of history. Faith and religious persecution are difficult subjects to handle in a two hour film, and For Greater Glory is as effective as it is thought-provoking. It is a movie giving voice to something most would not even think about, including the people of Mexico. The country certainly latched onto the film, as it has already been released there and has broken box office records. With its evocative shots, well-built characters, and hotly-paced action sequences, the movie is not only entertaining, it will also educate many about a history that they would not have known about otherwise. The events in the film are able to speak to us today, challenging us with what we would do to stand up for what we believe.
“It’s a universal story, it’s not specifically made for the Mexican people,” said Andy Garcia, “It’s a movie for the world.”