“His goal was to help reestablish the right to freedom of religion for everyone,” the director said, but in the course of the film “we see him rediscover not only the meaning of his life, but the meaning of his faith.”
Other characters in “Cristiada” are not so admirable.
Fr. Jose Reyes Vega, played by Santiago Cabrera, is a priest “you won’t see canonized,” Wright dryly remarked. He took up arms against the anti-clerical government, seeing war as the only way to bring his country back “from the brink of complete loss of faith.”
“He makes mistakes,” the director added. “And he causes an incident that almost single-handedly kills the Cristero movement.”
The priest was responsible for the burning of a train in which dozens of civilians were killed. The attack caused people to become extremely fearful of the Cristeros.
“This is something he is haunted with the rest of his life,” Wright said.
Peter O’Toole plays Fr. Christopher, a priest who unlike Fr. Vega is committed to peace.
President Calles is played by Ruben Blades, a onetime candidate for the presidency of Panama. The director said Blades is “fantastic” in portraying a man who is “pushed and pushed by the successes of the Cristeros.”
“His counter-reaction … creates an image of someone almost Nixonian in his belief that everyone is out to get him.
“That’s how things go so far afield and why it becomes so bloody,” explained Wright.
Other characters include General Gorostieta’s wife Tulita, played by Eva Longoria, who is instrumental in keeping the leader motivated.
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Eduardo Verastegui plays Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, a brilliant lawyer and an ardent pacifist. Flores was executed by the Mexican government in 1927 and beatified as a martyr by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
Actress Catalina Sandino Moreno plays Adriana, a composite of real-life women involved in helping the Cristeros.
Oscar Isaac plays Victoriano “El Catorce” Ramirez. He received his nickname “The Fourteen” after he single-handedly killed 14 federales sent to kill him.
“His story becomes that of legend, and he ultimately becomes a great leader and a general in the movement,” Wright said.
The filmmaker also alluded to the story of a young teenager named Jose.
“It’s heartbreaking at times what he has to go through, because he has that purity and innocence of faith and belief.”