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Saint Lucifer

With "Saint Lucifer," a present-day story of religious misunderstanding, helmer Miguel Sabido, a non-Indian theater and TV vet and connoisseur of Mexican popular culture, attempts to dramatize the five-century-old cultural and political struggle between Mexico's Indian population and the criollos, Mexicans of Spanish descent. All of the ruling-class criollos, with the exception of one priest, are cruel and intolerant, while the Indians --- Nahuatls in this case --- are sympathetic and generally more humanized. Parallel with contempo Indian revolt in state of Chiapas is obvious, but unimaginative politically correct stance, overly theatrical shooting style and incredibly stagy acting sabotage Sabido's efforts to effect much sympathy for Indians. Commercial forecast outside of Latin America is dim for this missed opportunity at addressing important issues, with only prospects lying in ethnographic-slanted programs.

With:
Emeterio ..... Rafael Cortes Melchor ..... Victor Perez Cirilo ..... Roberto Alavez Agustin ..... Agustin Aviles Father Leopoldo Santos Higareda ..... Ignacio Lopez Tarso Olegario ..... Antonio Monroy Delfino Gonzalez ..... Carlos Pichardo

Pic is initial screen foray from Nahuatl Theater Company, a group of Indian performers who have concentrated exclusively on plays since its founding in 1988.

At the urging of a crowd of peasants, some Nahuatl-speaking Indians from the village of Yohualichan, each with his own personal problems, band together for a journey to the town of Cuetzalan to stage a performance. Agustin is a fey would-be thesp who offends the patronizing priest; Olegario, who speaks his mind, is arrested for talking back to the nasty landowner Delfino Gonzalez; Melchor is the naive center of the pack; Emeterio, the most complex of the gang, has problems with his wife and, since the death of their young child, his faith. One gets the points easily and over and over again: Church and state collaborate in the subjugation of the Indians.

The major conflict between Indians and criollos centers on an ancient text, half in Nahuatl and half in Spanish, called the Colloquium of the Adoration of the King. The Indians want to perform it in full costume inside the town church, much to the chagrin of Father Higareda. The cause of concern: The Colloquium posits that the archangel Michael and Saint Lucifer engaged in a dialogue as they fought the battle between good and evil, whereas contemporary criollos theologians deny Lucifer any metaphysical credibility. Only one criollo, a sympathetic but powerless priest, understands that the Colloquium’s reading of Christian theology is compatible with ancient Indian culture.

After the Indians are denied permission for the spectacle, they barricade themselves inside the church. Authorities interpret the occupation as a political rather than a religious act, and only the intervention of normally passive Indian women preempts a slaughter. The Indians move their performance to some nearby ancient pyramids, thereby reappropriating their heritage.

Sabido tries to find cinematic equivalent of Indian’s superior spirituality with rapid inserts and zappy zooms of icons, but effects prove contrived. Remainder of the pic feels like it’s a filmed play. Vibrant color cinematography and indigenous textures help somewhat, and other tech credits are fine.

Saint Lucifer

Mexican

Production: An IMCINE/Producciones Nuevo Sol production. (International sales: Maria Eugenia Garzon, IMCINE, Mexico City.) Produced by Gabriel Romo Alpuche. Executive producer, Dulce Kuri. Directed, written by Miguel Sabido.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W), Arturo de la Rosa, Jorge Suarez; editor, Oscar Figueroa; music, Musicaos de San Miguel Zincacapan; art direction, Julio Pelaez, "the majordomos of Yohualichan." Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival (competing), April 15, 1997. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: Emeterio ..... Rafael Cortes Melchor ..... Victor Perez Cirilo ..... Roberto Alavez Agustin ..... Agustin Aviles Father Leopoldo Santos Higareda ..... Ignacio Lopez Tarso Olegario ..... Antonio Monroy Delfino Gonzalez ..... Carlos Pichardo

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