La buena nueva (The Good News) (2008)
Director: Helena Taberna.
Starring: Unax Ugalde (Miguel), Bárbara Goenaga (Margari), Gorka Aguinagalde (Hugo), Guillermo Toledo (Antonino), Mikel Tello (Capitán de Falange), Maribel Salas (Resu), Erik Probanza (Falangista joven), Magdalena Aizpurua (Antxoni), Iñake Irastorza (Sacristana), Klara Badiola (Clara), Susana Abaitua (Arantxa), Mikel Aingeru Arrastia (Falangista joven), Loquillo (Jefe de Falange), Jabier Muguruza, Fernando Ruiz (Acordeonista).
priest Miguel tries to defend the victims of shootings by the National Front but finds the church is siding with the fascists and not the republic
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Based on real events.
The bishop and Father Miguel are playing handball. After the game the bishop gives Miguel his parish assignment. Tomorrow his train leaves for the trip to Alzania (southwest of the western Pyrenees Mountains and of the town of Pamplona; south of San Sebastian on the coast of the Bay of Biscay). Miguel says he can't do it tomorrow. He has so many other things to do. The bishop just tells him that there will be excuses to try and delay this assignment. Miguel wants to know why the hurry? The hurry is because the priest in Alzania has fallen out of favor with the socialist mayor and the people of the town. The bishop then give Miguel a piece of advice. If the townspeople are all reds, then be the reddest of the reds.
Miguel takes the train to Alzania station. There is no one there to meet him, so he walks to the main square. Some men sitting around a small table outside the cantina see the "new one" coming. Miguel stops to exchange pleasantries and he says he hopes he will see the men in church on Sunday. One of the men, an accordion player, says about the church: "If it ever collapses, I won't get trapped inside." As Miguel walks away the men sing: "If priests and monks only knew the beating we were going to give them, they'd climb up in the choir singing: 'Freedom, freedom, freedom.'"
Miguel heads over to the church. There he meets Benita, the sacristan, and her youngest son, Fermin. She apologizes for the mess in the church saying that Father Babil left without any warning to her and she just has not been able to find the time to clean up the church. And, no, Father Babil did not leave even a note for Father Miguel.
The three of them start cleaning up the church. Father Miguel wants the church to be completely clean for Sunday. He asks Benita if she knows anyone who could help them? She replies: "This is a hotbed of atheists. You don't know where they've sent you." There is, however, a possibility that her niece Margari might help out. She is very religious, but she's married to a leftist.
Miguel goes into the local grocery store. There he meets the store owner Hugo, who is Benita's eldest son and Margari's cousin. He tells Miguel not to worry for they will protect him from the communists, atheists, church burners and the like. Miguel finds it hard to believe that there would be a church burning in Navarre (that is, an autonomous community in northern Spain, whose capital is Pamplona). Hugo says something big and serious is going to happen here soon.
When Miguel returns to the church he can hardly believe how nice it looks. Benita introduces him to her niece Margari, who invites him to dinner with she and her husband. Father Miguel says he really should visit the mayor first as a matter of courtesy. Margari tells him that the mayor doesn't come to church very often. But, since she is the school mistress, and her husband is the doctor, they might be able to help him by introducing him to important people in the town. So, Miguel accepts the invitation.
Fermin and Hugo look at the new rifles that came in a crate from Italy. Hugo says to grandfather: "We're going to do it big style this time, granddad." Granddad starts singing: "Our parents fought for God, our country and the king."
Father Miguel shows up for dinner at 9 p.m. as scheduled. There he meets the husband, Antonino. They go outside to sit and talk in the garden. Antonino tells the priest that his wife's family is very religious and are also fanatical Carlist supporters. (The Carlist Wars, 1833-1876, were civil wars fighting to decide who is to be king. Carlists were supporters of Infante Carlos, later Carlos V, and his descendants.) Antonino says he does go to mass on Sundays.
At dinner Miguel offers a toast to the village of Alzania and its parishioners. They click glasses and Antonino just has to add: "To health and the Republic!" Margari objects to her husband bringing politics into the discussion, but Miguel tells her that the church will be neutral in politics.
A group of young people, males and females, are having a high-old time. laughing, drinking wine and dancing. The accordionist moons the two nuns tending to the bee hives.
Father Miguel leads his first mass in church. The church has attracted a good turnout. Meanwhile, what looks like a convoy of army trucks is headed to the village. A young man rushes into the church and gives a message to the mayor. They both leave the church. After the mass, Father Miguel asks who was the man that left church so fast? That was the mayor. (An altar boy makes a remark that they mayor won't be mayor for long.) Father rushes out of the church and sees a truck convoy passing by. He looks very concerned. The Carlists in red hats and blue shirts and khaki pants jump out of the trucks. They are all armed and fan out to bust into buildings and cover the square. Their leader shouts: "Where are the Carlist forces around here?" Hugo finishes dressing in his uniform and red hat and he grabs a pistol from its hiding place in one of the carved out books on the book shelf.
The Carlists start throwing furniture and papers out of the windows and from the top of the roofs. Rifles are handed out to the local Carlists. Hugo and Fermin now go out to confer with the leader of the troops, who gives Hugo the fascist salute. Don Lucas is also there.
A dark green automobile comes in to pick up the mayor. One of the leftists tells the mayor: "We have to get out right away." The mayor gets in the car and off he goes.
A fire fight starts between the Carlists and the Republicans. Some of the Republicans have dark blue pants and light blue shirts with blue caps. The Republicans have to get out of there.
Meanwhile, a bonfire is started to consume the desks and chairs and the framed leftist posters.
The group of Carlists led by Hugo goes right passed Father Miguel. He grabs the last man's rifle away from him and he says that Fermin is too young to be involved in the fighting. Fermin leaves the rifle behind and goes with Hugo's group. Later, Father Miguel goes into a tavern filled with Carlist soldiers. The men toast to the clergy and the king! The father gives the rifle to Hugo saying that his altar boy does not need a rifle. Hugo and the Falangist leader are surprised that the priest is not supportive of their sacred cause. The Falangist wonders what is wrong with the father? He should be happy.
A loud speaker blares out that the army, the Carlist Militia and the Falangists (that is, the supporters of fascism) work hand in hand to cheer Spain and General Emilio Mola (a Spanish Nationalist commander during the Spanish Civil War).
Antonino tells his wife that like the rest of his kind, he is heading for the hills. Margari tells her husband: "If you go out that door, don't come back!" He just says the he has to go.
Father Miguel rides through the square on his bicycle and heads outside the town. He sees buzzards circling around in the air.
Benita kisses her son Fermin goodbye as he goes with the Carlist troops.
Father Miguel finds three men with bound hands who have been killed execution style. One of the dead is Antonino. In the cemetery Hugo goes over to tell Margari that he is sorry her husband was killed. She asks who did it and Hugo says it wasn't from his men. He just says outsiders did it.
Father Miguel writes to the bishop for guidance. He says recent political events haves scattered his parishioners. A group of leftist women and children come to ask the father if he would baptize them? Father Miguel is taken aback and wonders why the change of heart? The speaker for the group says: "Otherwise the Falangists will shave our heads." She also says they cannot afford to pay him. Miguel tells them that doesn't matter. He asks them to wait 10 minutes for him on the porch.
A young boy, Remigio, looks into a wardrobe closest and is frightened by a tall statue of the Virgin Mary inside the closet. He runs back to the others.
Father baptizes the children. When he finishes his guests start to leave, but he tells them they have to have a baptismal feast to honor what has happened this day. He feeds the women and children. Benita comes in and she is really mad that these women are here. She asks father why does she bother to clean the church when this bunch is just going to fill it up with lice? Benita says either they go or she goes. Father says the women are staying and that Benita should have a little more Christian charity in her. Benita is offended and leaves the church.
Father now asks the mother of Remigio if he could be his altar boy? Mom say definitely not, but father says the boy will be able to eat here (one less mouth to feed for mom) and he will also earn a little money to help out the family. The woman's friend tells her to take the deal. Remigio becomes the altar boy.
Father Miguel tells the leader of the Falangists that the Falangists are encroaching upon his responsibilities. He says the Falangists can't make people get baptized nor should they threaten women with harm. The leaders says he is not going to bow before Miguel. He adds: "I think you priests have far too much power in this country." Both men agree that it will be: each to his own responsibility. Miguel makes a move to indicate the leader can leave. He leaves.
Margari is pregnant. She lays out some of the baby clothes she has in anticipation of the birth.
Late at night a young soldier comes to ask the priest to hear his confession. He says that the captain told the volunteers to go out and kill some reds.
Flashback. The young soldier and the others go out and run into the town doctor, who is with two men. All three names are on the death list of reds. They line the men up and shot them in firing squad style. They are told to leave the bodies near the village so the townspeople would definitely see them.
Back to the present. The young soldier asks the priest to tell him that he did the right thing.
Margari comes into the grocery store and says hello to Hugo. She gets some groceries and starts to pay for them, but Hugo just lets her have them. He tells her she could come and stay with them because it's not right for a woman about to have a baby to be living all alone. But Margari prefers to live alone.
Father Miguel comes to see the bishop. He sees the priests being instructed in bayonet practice. Miguel does not approve. A priest, who is a personal rival to Miguel, is helping to lead the priests in their bayonet training. He tells Miguel that they are leaving for the front. He adds Miguel will have a long wait to see the bishop because he is with Cardinal Goma.
Miguel waits for the bishop. Outside he sees the priests with their bayoneted rifles posing for a photograph. Someone comes out later and tells Miguel that he can't see the bishop today. He is too busy. Miguel objects that it is an important matter. So the bishop's man tells Miguel that he should write a letter to the bishop. Discouraged, Miguel leaves. He takes the train back to Alzania.
Miguel visits Margari and asks her why did she take down the portrait of the pope? She says: "It's those who defend religion who killed my husband." She feels that God has turned his back on her and now she won't even attend Sunday mass. She adds that the killers of her husband attend Sunday mass. It makes her feel sick to think of it. He still urges her to come to church. If she can't have faith in God, then she could at least have faith in Father Miguel.
Miguel helps start up a cooperative involving women sewers. They sew uniforms for Franco's soldiers. Some of the women say it's sewing uniforms for the enemy. Father says they are sewing to help keep their families fed.
Margari comes over to talk with Miguel. She says she admires what he's doing with the cooperative to help the women and their families. Suddenly, she bends over in pain. The baby is on its ways. Father walks Margari back to her home. Three women help Margari give birth to a baby girl. Father Miguel gets to hold the baby.
Airplanes are heard overhead and father rushes all the children into the church. On the radio it is announced that fascist planes dropped incendiary bombs on Guernica and Durango. Guernica is a sacred town of the Basque people, but now it has been destroyed by the flames.
The bishop visits the town church. Margari now works for Father Miguel. It's she who prepares and sets out the meal for the hungry clergy and military leaders. The bishop insists that she sit down at the table and have some coffee with the men. A priest asks Miguel why did his sacristan leave him? He says it seems she didn't like his sermons. Hugo and the Falangist leaders say they don't like his sermons either. Miguel says he teaches the Gospel, emphasizing charity and forgiveness. The Falangist objects that the National Uprising is much more than those virtues. Indeed, it is a Holy Crusade. Miguel asks then what about Guernica? Was the destruction of that town a part of the Holy Crusade? Miguel says the whole world knows that it was the German bombers who committed the total destruction of the small town. The bishop asks for calm, but the fascist asks the bishop to support his understanding that the church supports the nationalists. The bishop replies: "Official church doctrine has always been to obey those in power." But during the Uprising there was already a legitimate government in Madrid. This makes the fascist very angry and he says that that government was controlled by the communists. Margari throws in a second comment that the fascist doesn't like and he tells her that this is a conversation among men. Margari excuses herself and leaves the table.
When the bishop is leaving he tells Miguel that it's a tricky situation he's in. So he better be careful. And regardless of the situation, he must always keep up appearances.
The accordionist and Margari's maid meet in an old barn. A nun followed Margari. The couple starts kissing each other (brief nudity) and the fascists shoot a rifle outside the barn. They then push the door open, grab the accordionist and take him to the pit. They put the accordionist on the edge of a steep cliff and then they just push him off the edge. Now they cut the hair of the maid and make her drink castor oil. They grab her and take her to the square where they drop her. She has defecated on herself. Father Miguel runs out to rescue the maid. The soldiers say they are not doing anything wrong. The priest is disgusted with them.
Margari and two other women give the maid a bath. And now the priest learns that the soldiers threw her boyfriend in the pit.
Miguel goes to speak to the fascist leader and tells him: "This has got to stop." What has to stop? "Killing people and leaving the bodies lying about in the hills." The sadistic fellow has the nerve to say: "We kill nobody here." Miguel tells him that one day all these atrocities will come to light and he will have to pay for all of it. The leader grabs Miguel forcefully and asks him if he is threatening him? Miguel shouts to let go of him and the leader lets him go.
Father Miguel goes over to the pit. He seems to be keeping a record of the locations of the bodies killed by the fascists.
Father Miguel and Margari walk up into the hills and he tells her that some of the people in the next village over from them have been coming to him to make confession. Their own priest refuses to say a prayer for their dead husbands, brothers and/or fathers killed by the fascists. And when they confess they tell him where they found the bodies. Margari asks him why has he brought her out here? He says he just has to get some to this horror off his chest, to share it with someone. And Margari is the person he trusts the most. Margari thanks him for the remark.
Miguel sits somewhat close to three graves. One of the dead was the town teacher. He starts drawing a map of the location of the graves. Margari asks him why is he doing this? He says the men are gone, ". . . but we can at least save them from a second death from oblivion."
The fascist leader plays cards with Hugo. He tells Hugo that the priest threatened him by saying he will tell people about the killings. The fascist says they are going to have to deal with this thorn in their side.
Hugo comes into his grocery store and Benita scolds him for being in the tavern again leaving her to take care of everything. She suggests that he should go to the front, like his brother. And Hugo should get married. She suggests Margari. Hugo says he will marry only when he wants to marry.
Margari is back in church again. She also brings her small daughter with her. Miguel comes for Christmas dinner. He enjoys playing with the little girl. He even puts the girl to bed. Miguel mentions to Margari that he was brought up in an orphanage. He also tells her that as a kid he found a large wedding photo of a man and wife. Miguel kept it and still has it. He would at times pretend that the couple in the photo are his mother and father.
On his way home from Margari's house, a woman pleads with the father to come and talk to her son. He goes with her. The boy's father says the war won't last much longer. Miguel agrees with that saying that France and Britain have already recognized the Burgos government. "So no-one will lift a finger for the Republic." The father and son are suspected of being leftists. What they want Father Miguel to do is to talk to the mayor and tell them the father and son are good right-wing, Christian people. Miguel says that the mayor will not talk to him. So the father says they will turn themselves in. Miguel says that will only lead to imprisonment or a firing squad. He finishes by saying that father and son have to stay where they are in hiding. He will come over at times to hear their confessions.
Soldiers comes for Hugo. He will be sent to the front. (Probably because he rejected the plot to harm the priest.) Hugo takes his revolver and shoots himself in the foot.
Father Miguel brings the women in the cooperative a radio to listen to. A woman named Antxoni takes some clothes over to the fascist leader. She is having an affair with the man. A leftist woman watches her. When the woman returns to the cooperative, she lies about where she has been. The leftist woman tells her she knows where she has been: delivering flattery to the fascist. "The whole village knows." Antxoni tells her basically that it's not any of her business. The leftist woman shouts: "You're sleeping with my husband's murderers! Bitch!". They start pulling each other's hair. Father Miguel has to break them up. He decides to send everyone home because it's late already.
The radio announces that there is a new pope. Pope Pius XII.
With the help of a cane, Hugo goes to talk with Father Miguel in the church garden. Hugo asks the priest to ask Margari to come live with him, his mother and grandfather. He want Miguel to tell Margari that Hugo is a man with good intentions. Miguel refuses to be a go-between. So now Hugo asks the priest to at least stay out of his way so he can build up a relationship with Margari. He says that Miguel only has eyes for Margari. Hugo then threatens the priest by saying maybe the bishop should know about this.
Margari tells Miguel that he will never be able to guess who just asked her to marry him. Her cousin, Hugo. She asks Miguel what does he think of that? Miguel won't or can't answer her.
The next day father goes up to a virtually empty chapel in the hills. In front of a large statue of Jesus on the cross he cries like a baby.
Margari goes to confession. She tells Miguel that they have fired her from her job as the teacher and taken from her the school teacher's house. Margari adds: "They've killed others for less." She then says she will have to marry her cousin. Miguel doesn't like that idea, but Margari asks what else can she do? She has a daughter to think about. Miguel asks her if Hugo can make her happy? All she says is: "Thanks for everything." She starts to leave. Miguel comes out of the confessional booth, but he can't think of anything to say to her. She leaves.
Miguel goes to Hugo and berates him for throwing Margari out of her job and her house and for now forcing her to marry him. The priest says: "You wretch!" Hugo says that when a man loves a woman he will do anything to get her. He even shot himself in the foot so he could be near Margari. The priest gets up to leave, but Hugo whispers to him that to prove just how serious he is, he now confesses that he had her husband killed.
Margari moves into Hugo's house. Now she works as a grocery clerk. She sees Miguel walking in her direction with a strange, disturbed expression on his face. But before either of them can say anything, the woman with her son and husband in hiding screams to the priest that they have arrested her son and husband. Miguel goes to the fascist leader to tell him that the men of the house in question are good right-wing, Catholic people. But the fascist tells Miguel bluntly that he is the law around here and he will decide the fates of wrong-doers. So Miguel begs the fascist for some mercy. It's doubtful the fascist will show mercy.
Hugo brings over a canary as a present for Margari's little girl. He tells Margari that they should set the date for the wedding, but she replies that there will be no wedding before the end of the war. So then Hugo says when Fermin returns, his brother will take her present room and he and Margari can move into the big bedroom. "After the wedding, of course." Margari just tells him to take away the canary for her child is scared of birds.
At night a death truck pulls up in front of Father Miguel's place. A soldier asks him if he would give the condemned their last rights because they will be executed. Father Miguel jumps into the back of the truck. While the father listens to the first confession, that of the son, he uses a pocket knife to slice the man's ropes. He goes to hear the confession of the father, but he says he will not take confession.
The two blind-folded men are taken out of the back of the truck. The priest is forced to watch the event. They are taken over by the pit and made to kneel. The father kneels between the two men and starts saying the Lord's Prayer. All of a sudden the son grabs the pistol from one of the executioners. The other executioner kills the father. The son shoots the soldier who shot his father and then shoots the other soldier. A guard on horseback comes riding up. The priest tells the son to get out of here and make it quick! The priest is arrested and brought to the square.
The bishop tells Miguel that he looks terrible. Miguel says he has been in jail for three days. The bishop replies: "You had it coming!" He tells Miguel that he helped a prisoner escape. Is he crazy? He adds that Miguel is hurting the church and putting the clergy in danger. The bishop calls Miguel an egotist and an arrogant man. Miguel is going to be assigned a new position, in the seminary. Miguel indicates that if he can't preach and practice the Gospel as written, then he doesn't need to be a priest. He leaves.
Hugo welcomes the new priest to the village. The selection is the priest who was Miguel's rival. The rival says that Miguel was always too impulsive.
The fascist leader finishes having sex with Antxoni. She tells him that she is going to lose her job at the cooperative. Now what is she going to do? The fascist tells her not to tell him her problems. He doesn't want to hear it. This makes Antxoni mad and she tells the fascist that she is not going to come back to him. Any of his little soldiers will do. For this, she gets slapped hard across the face. The fascist leaves his office. Antxoni now looks for revenge. She opens a locked box and takes out a letter. Then she takes the money in the box.
Antxoni goes to the grocery store and tells Margari that she is leaving the village. She advises Margari to to the same. Antxoni then offers Margari proof that it was Hugo that put her husband's name on the death list. She gives Margari the letter and tells her to look very carefully at the handwriting. She leaves. Margari looks hard at the list of names. She suddenly realizes that it was Hugo that had her husband killed. As Antxoni gets on the train, she sees Father Miguel get off the train.
Miguel returns to his office and starts packing. His little altar boy comes in and tells Miguel that he doesn't want to be the altar boy anymore, if Father Miguel is not going to be there. The priest smiles. He now gives his diary that he has been keeping of his stay. He tells Remigio: "Keep it safe. And when you're older, show it to your children, so they'll know the truth, and no one will forget what happened here." He then asks Remigio to tell the women at the cooperative to meet him on the porch.
The fascists now celebrate their victory in the Spanish Civil War. Pope Pius XII telegrams Franco congratulating him. He even thanks Franco for "the Catholic victory". Fermin is brought home. He looks to be brain damaged. His mother asks what did they do to Fermin? Hugo comes over and tries to console his mother, but she only says: "Get off!"
Margari comes in to see Miguel. She says: "I'd leave too if I had somewhere to go." She adds that she found out that Hugo had her husband killed. And now she wants to know if Miguel knew this? He did know, but he says he heard the information in confession. Margari says it's always religion first with him. He grabs her so she wont leave and tells her how sorry he is. She asks Miguel to take her with him. "There's only pain for me here." He says she can't escape pain, but she says yes she can. She wants to form a family with Miguel, her daughter and herself somewhere new.
When Hugo and the family go home, Hugo calls out for Margari. His mother tells him that Margari went to tell Father Miguel goodbye. And now Hugo explodes at the mention of the priest's name. He tells his brain damaged brother that things will be better for them once Margari is here. Benita tells Hugo that Margari is not coming home. She saw the death list. His mother reproaches him for having the doctor killed.
Father Miguel now leads the women of the cooperative in prayer. Hugo comes marching up the steps, firing his pistol into the air and calling out for Margari. Miguel sends the women running away He is going to speak with Hugo. Only Margari stays with Miguel. Hugo reproaches his cousin for marrying an outsider, a non-Catholic and a leftist. Father tries to intervene and Hugo knocks him out with his pistol. Now he tells Margari that they could have had a family together. Then she took up with the priest. "You've given them all your affection, except me!"
Father Miguel gets up and jumps on Hugo. The pistol flies across the room. Miguel starts choking the bastard and is pulled off Hugo by the new priest. Miguel goes back to the ceremony he was performing with the women of the cooperative. The new priest objects that Miguel is no longer the village priest. Miguel and the women all ignore the new priest.
The rival priest goes to the victory celebration and gives the fascist salute from the balcony with the bigwigs. The band starts playing. Fascists soldiers come marching by. After the soldiers pass the citizens march in behind them. The women of the cooperative go into the hills with Father Miguel.
The new priest leads the prayer for the crowd.
Miguel leads the women to the pit where so many executed bodies were thrown. He says among other things: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." At night the women light their candles in memoriam of the killed people. Father spreads holy water over the place of death saying: "Rest in peace."
The next day Father Miguel is on the train heading out. He is in civilian clothing. Behind him comes Margari and her daughter.
Good movie, but another hard one to watch. Perhaps this film on the Spanish Civil War was the best for showing the atrocities committed by the fascists on the citizens occupying various Spanish towns. It shows the fascists as being very brutal to the citizens suspected on being leftists. The names of the leftists were put on "death lists" that "death squads" used to kill the leftists. And if a influential citizen had enough power, he could have the name of a personal enemy placed on the list. (Jezz, how odd for fascists to be human monsters!" LOL) I'm glad the film showed just how nasty and inhumane the fascists could be and were. And shame on the Catholic church for siding with the fascists in Spain and daring to say that the fascist victory was a Catholic victory! The Catholic church did not have a good record of opposing fascism and fascist genocide of peoples. A fascist citizen, soldier or priest can't go to heaven. Down with fascism! Unax Ugalde (Miguel), Bárbara Goenaga (Margari) and Gorka Aguinagalde (Hugo) were all good in the film.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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