(Photo: Grace Hill Media)
Actor Andy Garcia said it was an honor to play the role of a religious freedom fighter from Mexico in the soon-to-be released film "For Greater Glory."
Garcia told The Christian Post in an interview that he felt privileged to play the role of Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, an agnostic former general who finds himself leading a rebellion against the secularist policies of 1920s Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles.
"It was a great honor actually to play that sort of character," said Garcia. "It was a great opportunity, it was a privilege."
Garcia explained that he was drawn to the character of Velarde given his "very dramatic arc" as a figure during a religious uprising in Mexico known as the Cristero Revolution.
"On one level you have the concept of once a general, always a general. And the thought that you can be commanding an army again," said Garcia. "At the same time he had really strong beliefs about what they were fighting for, even though he wasn't religious."
Vivo Cristo Rey
The setting for the film is a historical one, taking place in 1920s Mexico. Having successfully overthrown long serving dictator Porfirio Diaz and having defeated counterrevolutionary forces during the 1910s, the Mexican revolutionary government under Elias Calles seeks to enact various reforms.
These reforms include, however, efforts that attack the Catholic Church. The increasingly violent means of enforcing the new laws lead to a violent backlash, as several bands of pro-Catholic soldiers, known as Cristeros, rise up against the federal government.
Mexico's history of anticlerical activity goes well before the establishment of the Calles government. Not long after gaining independence from Spain, Mexican liberals sought to cut down on the power of the Church.
According to Michael J. Gonzales, author of The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940, Mexico's history of anticlerical activity and political secularism predate the Calles government.
"Reinventing church-state relations had been the principle political objective for Mexico's liberal leadership since independence," wrote Gonzales.
"Laws stripping the church of land and special courts in the 1850s had plunged the nation into civil war."
The film dramatically depicts the battles fought by the Cristero army, as they successfully defeated the Federales at towns and communities throughout rural northern Mexico. As they went into battle, the Cristeros would shout "Vivo Cristo Rey," with the response "Que Viva!"
Garcia told CP that the historical plotline and the on location filming was "very stimulating."
"We shot in five different states in Mexico, from mining towns from the top of mountains that took us three hours to get there," said Garcia.
"We were everywhere."
Some have viewed the cinematic retelling of the Cristero story as timely given the many debates over the extent of religious freedom in both the United States and the "Arab Spring" Middle East.
Lauren Markoe of The Washington Post wrote that "endorsements for the film from Catholic leaders explicitly connect it to the current clash between church and state."
While avoiding political comparisons, Garcia did feel the story was one that was timeless due to the long standing historical conflicts regarding religious freedom as well as church and state matters.
"I think the struggle for freedom is going on all over the world," said Garcia to CP, who noted his native country of Cuba as an example of this struggle.
"Should the government have an opinion on what your faith is, no matter what it is, and how you practice it? These things have been going on in society for centuries."
Directed by Dean Wright and starring Andy Garcia, Eva Longoria, Oscar Isaac, and Peter O'Toole, "For Greater Glory" will be in theaters Friday.