“For Greater Glory” tells the true story of the Cristero War, its heroes, victims and martyrs.
A conflict that has been somewhat lost to history, the Cristero War began in 1926 when newly elected Mexican president Plutarco Elias Calles began a violent persecution of the country’s Catholic citizens and forbid them to practice their faith. In response, Catholics rose up in rebellion and fought as Cristeros (“soldiers for Christ”) for their right to religious freedom.
“I didn’t know anything about it,” star Andy Garcia said of the Cristero War. “Even in Mexico, a lot of Mexicans, when I told them about this movie, they weren’t even aware of it. It wasn’t like you were saying something about the Second World War. It was kind of something that seemed to have a little bit of a taboo quality to it.”
Garcia, 56, plays Enrique Gorostieta, a retired – and somewhat disenchanted – general who is convinced to lead the rebel army because, although he is agnostic, he believes in his countrymen’s right to freedom. The film also stars Eva Longoria as Gorostieta’s wife Tulita, Peter O’Toole as an elderly Catholic priest, Ruben Blades as President Calles and Bruce McGill as President Calvin Coolidge.
“All the characters that are presented are historical characters,” Garcia told me. “I think the Peter O’Toole character might not be a specific priest, but it’s sort of an amalgamation of certain priests that were there. But Father Vega [Santiago Cabrera], ‘El Catorce’ [Oscar Isaac] and President Calles are all based on historical figures.”
The film’s stand-out performance comes by way of 14-year-old actor Mauricio Kuri, who shares screen time with Garcia as the film switches between their characters’ stories until they intersect. Kuri plays Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio, a young boy who joins the Cristeros after witnessing the brutal murder of a Catholic priest.
Kuri embraced his legendary (and tragic) character, who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, with poise and control well beyond his years. Garcia, whose own performance excelled most when sharing the screen with Kuri, offered his own praise for the young Mexican actor.
“He was so sweet, he was so committed, so well prepared and he was fantastic,” Garcia said. “It’s easy to embrace him and hug him and put him in your arms and say, ‘Just relax, you’ve got it all together, just be who you are and it will be fine.’ He was a great kid.”
As a father of four children, it’s no surprise that Garcia found an emotional connection with his young co-star, but as he explained during our interview, surrogate fatherhood wasn’t the only theme that drew him to the project.
“It’s easy to get behind people who are struggling for – whether it be religious freedom or just the concept of absolute freedom,” said Garcia, whose own family fled the dictatorship in Cuba for Miami, Florida when he was just a boy. “Even in today’s modern society, people are still living under regimes that don’t have that. So it’s easy to rally, to put on the rally cap for that cause.”
He continued, “It’s not only in my conscious, but it’s in my soul and my subconscious.”
“For Greater Glory” is in theaters everywhere now. Click here to purchase tickets through Fandango.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.