The New York Film Festival premiere of Paul Verhoeven’s “Benedetta” was greeted by a small group of protesters on Sunday.
The biographical drama, starring Virginie Efira, tells the story of a 17th century nun who falls in love with another nun. It opened to wide acclaim at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, receiving a five-minute standing ovation and quickly becoming the talk of the event.
But a group of protesters from the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property didn’t have the same reaction, gathering outside of NYFF venue Alice Tully Hall with signs calling the film “blasphemous.”
NYFF itself even acknowledged the protesters, posting a photo of a few of them along with information of the film’s screening times. “We vehemently protest the blasphemous lesbian movie ‘Benedetta,’ that insults the sanctity of Catholic nuns,” one sign reads. “Why the endless insults to Jesus?” another asked.
— 59th New York Film Festival (@TheNYFF) September 26, 2021
NYFF attendees also posted photos and videos of the protest to social media, pointing out how it could prove to be great advertising for the film.
— Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly) September 26, 2021
If I was on the Benedetta PR/distribution team, I’d immediately release a poster with “blasphemous lesbian movie” as a prominent quote. https://t.co/FI5lHTDDaN
— Rafa Sales Ross (@rafiews) September 26, 2021
“Benedetta” has been fairly well-received by critics, with Variety‘s Peter Debruge writing: “With its haters-be-damned approach to all things carnal, “Benedetta” is intended to arouse, thereby satisfying the most basic definition of pornography, even if Verhoeven (who claims a certain scholarly interest in the subject as well) does surround the titillating bits with illuminating insights into Renaissance religious life.”
Representatives for Verhoeven did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.