The Last Christeros Tracks a Spiritual Journey
In 1926, Mexican president Plutarco Elías Calles outlawed the Catholic Church for violating the country's post-revolution constitution, prompting a civil war whose rebels called themselves Christeros and swore loyalty to Christ the King. An official amnesty treaty was sworn in 1929, after which the government's persecution of Catholics continued nonetheless. The film The Last Christeros begins with an old former Christero recalling the start of the war over a black screen, then moves into a fictional re-creation of the last days of a band of Christero soldiers hanging on in the late 1930s. Director Matías Meyer's third feature—which will run at Anthology Film Archives as prelude to a strong panorama of recent Mexican movies—is a war film consumed with waiting. Its early hillside battle sequences, unfolding through classical views of weathered guerrillas dodging oft-unseen foes, give way to scenes of women and children at rest with the men, including the conflicted Colonel Florencio Estrada (Alejandro Limón), who treasures his time with his loved ones while knowing that staying longer with them places their lives in greater danger. Though this group-minded period film (adapted from a novel by Antonio Estrada, and inspired by the research of Meyer's own historian father) seemingly differs from the filmmaker's earlier rough studies of young men alone in the wild, The Last Christeros, like them, tracks a spiritual journey. The families walking between cacti and blue skies in search of better shelters are believers in the afterlife seeking peace while still on Earth.
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