A “Silver Fish” For “Un Dios prohibido” — Catholic Film Festival Swims Against the Flow

I seldom go to the cinema these days, although like most of us, who does not enjoy a good film that either entertains, edifies, or leaves one with something to think about and muse over? There are certain films I watched years ago that still linger in my mind with something of their beauty and ‘message’ still very vivid. The trouble is that so much of the seventh art nowadays does little of any of the above, seemingly being aimed solely at man’s lower instincts, or containing scenes of such crazy special effects that are so repetitive, they become actually boring! The last film I saw in the cinema was “Philomena” – a supposedly true story about an elderly Irish woman, now living in England, who desperately wanted to find her long lost son that had been wrenched from her by some ‘wicked’ Irish nuns when she was a young single mother! The film was well acted but certainly troubling. To my disgust I discovered some weeks later that the whole story had been manipulated and distorted for the sole purpose of putting the Catholic Church in a bad light! Sound familiar?

This article on Eponymous Flower talks about a Catholic Film Festival where examples of some decent good films can be seen. 


(Rome) The feature film “Un Dios Prohibido” (A Forbidden God) by Spanish director Pablo Moreno was honored at the 5th International Catholic Film Festival Mirabile Dictu for “Best Film” award and was awarded the “Silver Fish 2014”. The award ceremony took place on June 26 in Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome.

The “Silver Fish” is reminiscent of one of the oldest Christian symbols. The award was presented by director and film producer Liana Marabini, president and founder of the International Catholic Film Festival. The aim of the festival is to give space and visibility to producers and directors of feature films, documentaries, docu-fiction, television series and short films, to promote the “positive models and universal moral values” which are therefore consistent with Christianity.

In 2014, 1.600 Productions From 120 Countries Were Presented

More than 1,600 Catholic productions from 120 countries took part in this year’s Festival and competed for one of the seven prizes awarded. An international jury in 2014, chaired by the Austrian producer Norbert Blecha, assessed the submitted projects and awarded prizes for Best Film, Best Documentary, Best Short Film, Best Actor and Best Director.

The “Silver Fish” for 2014’s “Best Film” which was the Spanish feature film “Un Dios prohibido” was excellent. The film tells the true story of 51 Catholic martyrs who were killed during the Spanish Civil War by Anarcho-Communists. The historical facts took place in August 1936 soon after the outbreak of the conflict in the wake of the April 14, 1931 proclamation of the so-called Second Republic of Spain, a freedom-destroying Popular Front regime, which began a brutal persecution of the Catholic Church.

“Un Dios prohibido”: Is The Story of the Murder of 51 Missionaries in Spain

In Barbastro, a small market town in the Aragonese province of Huesca, 51 peaceful and defenseless “Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, better known as the Heart of Mary Missionaries or Claretians 1 were killed by militia members of the ruling People’s Front out of hatred for the Catholic faith. This “beautiful film,” says Corrispondenza Romana is told in a successful and touching way, about the last few weeks and heroic moments in the lives of the missionaries before their execution.

The prize for the best short film went to the Italian Alessio Rupalti. In “I Was Looking for Something Else,” he tells a story about the importance of human and family relationships.

 Continue reading the article for news of some of the other award-winning films presented at the festival, and the trailer of “Un Dios prohibido”.

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32 Responses to A “Silver Fish” For “Un Dios prohibido” — Catholic Film Festival Swims Against the Flow

  1. johnhenrycn says:

    I haven’t gone to the cinema for about 16 years. The last one I think was Perfect Storm that I took my 96 year old grandmother to see in her wheelchair, because it had rave reviews, and because she hadn’t been to the movies before that since the early 1960s. She thought it was a waste of time and so did I. Mind you, I still like films, but what with advances in technology, there’s no longer any need to sit next to the obese scarfing down buckets of popcorn and barrels of pepsi.

    But I digress: my favourite Catholic, or Catholic friendly, films (no particular order) are:

    1. The Cardinal
    2. Ben Hur
    3. A Nun’s Story
    4. The Keys of the Kingdom
    5. It’s A Wonderful Life
    6. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness
    7. Magnificent Obsession
    8. Sound of Music
    9. High Noon

    Would welcome suggestions from others about their special (Catholic friendly) films.

  2. marcpuckett says:

    The series of ten films called Dekalog, directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski, each one referencing one of the Commandments. The entire series is a masterwork in their depiction of beauty/tragedy/forgiveness in the Christian life. Babette’s Feast, directed by Gabriel Axel. For Greater Glory (distributed in Europa as Cristiada, I think) about the Cristeros (think Bl Miguel Agustin Pro SJ) was certainly worth the trip to the theatre. I watch a fair amount of dross on Amazon and Netflix, ahem, but haven’t gone to the cinema since For Greater Glory (two years ago?).

  3. Toad says:

    “To my disgust I discovered some weeks later that the whole story had been manipulated and distorted for the sole purpose of putting the Catholic Church in a bad light! Sound familiar?”

    Tut, Kathleen! More paranoia.
    Like JH, I’m no longer a moviegoer (might try to see this Spanish one, if I can get hold of it; good trailer) but nobody makes movies with the “sole purpose” of anything – except making a profit. …Unless they are bonkers, of course.

    The reason the makers of the Irish film “distorted” the Catholic Church’s role, was doubtless to provide a satisfying villain, which all films need. Nothing personal, I’m confident. Just necessary for the plot. Films distort everything – they have to, in order to shoehorn often years of narrative into a couple of hours.
    The good guys are made nicer – the bad guys, nastier. It’s inevitable. …So don’t take it to heart.

    And yet, as I once remarked on a TV programme about Princess Diana, “Just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.” …So you may still have a point.

  4. kathleen says:

    “Yes” to all those great films mentioned by JH and Marc… though I seem to have missed out on “The Keys of the Kingdom”! (Another of the good things about having internet is the ability to download those old films and then watch them at home.)
    Thanks for the mention of the “Dekalog” Marc – a useful guide to look out for.

    Toad, call it “paranoia” if you wish, but haven’t you during your admittedly long life noticed how the film industry in this respect has changed? Whereas the villain in films was always a typical gangster, criminal, or marauding pirate, barbarian etc., and no “institution” as such was ever singled out, there now seems to be no impediment to film makers portraying the Catholic Church alone in a bad light. For starters, just look at Dan Brown’s anti-Catholic tales put out on the big screen! And if you are watching any modern film where a Catholic priest comes on the scene, hold tight to your seat – he will invariably no longer be a Bing Crosby type of caring shepherd of souls, but a corrupt character out to prey on children! It’s a real scandal they are allowed to get away with this, and it does untold damage to the ingenious who fail to see through the biased negative portrayal of the Catholic Church, and especially her priests.

  5. Toad says:

    Excellent point, Kathleen – now they make movies blackguarding big business and scoundrelly bankers and environmental polluters.
    Not in my day.

    And who does not mourn the fact that movies starring today’s equivalent of Ingrid Bergman (whoever that might be) as a nun, are no longer being made? …Not Toad.

    ..And, seeing this, who can wonder that Catholic Churches played to packed houses back then?

    “It’s a real scandal they are allowed to get away with this, and it does untold damage to the ingenuous who fail to see through the biased negative portrayal of the Catholic Church, and especially her priests.”
    It also confirms my long-held suspicion that most people are prepared to believe virtually anything – the sole proviso being that it must be fantastically stupid.

  6. johnhenrycn says:

    On a lighter note, I assume everyone loves Sister Act as much as I do?

    Marc, thanks for the Dekalog reference, which I intend to follow up.

  7. mkenny114 says:

    Good day to you all! I just saw the request for suggestions and couldn’t help myself, as I do love a bit of cinema. Before I list my recommendations though, I shall put forward an excellent example of the ridiculous anti-Catholicism Kathleen was talking about – Elizabeth: The Golden Age. The first one had a smattering of similar sentiment in it, but this one is just ridiculous. The level of misrepresentation and slander here (as in many other films) would not be allowed if the group being targeted were anyone else but the Church, IMHO.

    My suggestions though, are as follows:

    1. A Man For All Seasons (just brilliant in every way)
    2. The Scarlet and the Black (apart from the fact that it does Pope Pius XII’s role in the situation quite a disservice, otherwise a good film and very Catholic friendly, if I remember rightly anyway!)
    3. Diary of a Country Priest
    4. Into Great Silence (more for meditative viewing than entertainment as such, but very good)
    5. The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (despite the fact that it was directed by an atheist Marxist, one of the most powerful re-tellings of the Gospel I’ve seen).
    6. The Agony and the Ecstasy (Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison on great form)
    7. Becket (Peter O’Toole hamming it up brilliantly, and has that great excommunication scene)
    8. The Passion of Joan of Arc (one of the most emotional silent films I’ve seen – not that I’ve seen that many, but…)
    9. The Miracle Maker (a kid’s film in essence, but a great one for all the family, and a really good all round re-telling of the Gospel)
    10. The Passion of the Christ (this one’s for Toad, as I know how much he likes Mel Gibson)

    I also fully endorse the suggestion of Babette’s Feast above and It’s A Wonderful Life – both excellent choices! Also, another couple just come to mind are The Song of Bernadette, and The Mission (some ambiguous messages sent out by the latter, so wouldn’t recommend to anyone who wasn’t aware of the history it aims to portray, but I did find it very moving).

  8. Toad says:

    Little Mel will be delighted when I tell him he crept in at the bottom, Michael.

    My favourite film (can’t possibly do ten) – Mr. Hulot’s Holiday – is not specifically Catholic, but it is an inspiration to us all – as it does not have a hint of malice or sin in it – and features an utterly saintly “hero.”

    …Yes, it would have been helped by the presence of Dear Old Bing as a Crooning Curate – but what film wouldn’t?
    (…Possibly Star Wars XXVIII : Revenge of The Mormons?)

  9. mkenny114 says:

    Ah, he needn’t worry – it wasn’t meant to be in any particular order! 🙂

  10. mkenny114 says:

    P.S. I have since thought of some more (again, not in any particular order):

    1. The Flowers of Saint Francis (aka Francis, God’s Jester)
    2. You Can’t Take It With You
    3. Meet John Doe
    4. Lilies of the Field
    5. The Nativity Story
    6. Of Gods and Men
    7. Jesus of Nazareth (Zeffirelli’s mini-series; not a film I know, is a bit over top in parts, and has its weaknesses, but I still can’t help loving it, especially the scene with Peter’s confession!)

  11. johnhenrycn says:

    Lots of good pointers, Michael. Of course, Into Great Silence is a documentary, not fiction. But I have real visceral distaste for The Passion of The Christ and all other frontal depictions of Our Lord’s face. It might seem Islamic to say that, but the protocol used to be that the face of the actor portraying Jesus was never shown. One reason for that taboo from a Christian perspective was that the actor might be totally licentious in real life, or subsequently become so, thus forever staining the film in question. Mel Gibson, ironically enough (hi Toad!) is one good example.

  12. kathleen says:

    A great list of films Michael… although nos. 2, 8 & 9 seem to have escaped me!
    (I can see I’m not going to get anything done these next few evenings, other than curling up on the sofa to watch all these suggested films I’d somehow missed.) 😆

    “The Song of Bernadette” is a lovely film, but if anyone has not yet read the book by Franz Werfel that the film is based on, with some truly brilliant dialogue between the sceptical townsfolk (including a hardened atheist who later becomes a believer) then I would really recommend it.
    I think it quite often happens (not always) that the book is better than the film: “Quo Vadis” too, though the film was also pretty good.
    Thank you for mentioning “The Mission” – a very powerful film!

    And yes, very good example of blatant manipulation with “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” BTW!

    P.S. Oh no… just seen your new comment giving more examples of “good films” that I haven’t seen! More evenings not getting anything done I fear. 😉

  13. kathleen says:

    Hi JH,

    I know what you mean about having a “visceral distaste for… all frontal depictions of Our Lord’s face” but I do think the actor, Jim Caviezel, playing Our Blessed Lord in The Passion of the Christ was particularly good. It’s not just because he was classically handsome 😉 with a very sensitive face, but by the way he gave everything to the exalted role he was playing. I read that he spent weeks in prayer and preparation beforehand, and was profoundly affected by the film. His movements and expressions were pretty convincing I thought, though I believe no man could ever perfectly fill the role of Christ in a film.
    The film itself was so real, so graphic, it really affected me, and I have never been able to watch it again!

    Unfortunately the actor in The Gospel According to Saint Matthew is not nearly as good as Jim Caviezel.

    One of the lovely things about Ben Hur is that we never see Our Lord’s face properly – giving one the message that the face of the Son of God is just too sublime to be portrayed by an actor. (That’s probably what you mean by the old “protocol”.)

  14. mkenny114 says:

    John Henry,

    Sorry, I didn’t realise you meant just fiction films. Nevertheless, I still recommend IGS as Catholic cinema in general, and it is very good Lenten viewing in particular.

    Interesting point about showing Our Lord’s face in film – I’m not sure I agree personally, but I do see what you mean about the actor playing Christ perhaps drawing negative attention. This means we’d have to lose The Gospel According to Saint Matthew off the list too though, which would be a shame 🙂 Luckily, Jim Caviezel hasn’t done anything to do so – quite the contrary in fact! As for Mel Gibson, strangely enough I don’t think his subsequent misdemeanours actually managed to undermine the film’s impact very much at all, and for the most part his willingness to publicly humble himself, seek help, and ask for forgiveness has softened any damage that it did do.

    Kathleen, I am very glad that some of my suggestions have provided you with a good itinerary for the next few days! 🙂 Also, I shall definitely check out the book by Franz Werfel, as it sounds really interesting (especially as there’s still quite a lot I don’t know about Saint Bernadette).

  15. mkenny114 says:

    P.S. Though I do love ‘Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo’, I do agree Kathleen, that the actor in question is not anywhere near as good as Caviezel. I think he may have been a student found by the director actually, who deliberately chose amateur and inexperienced actors, so that they wouldn’t try to inject any of their own personalities into the characters, but let the Gospel story speak for itself. The effect can, I imagine, be a divisive one, but I did enjoy it – found it strangely moving in parts actually.

  16. marcpuckett says:

    I went to IMDB to see if the actor who was the Christus in Pasolini’s St Matthew has done much with his subsequent career and it appears not. Anyway, the brief synopsis they provide describes Pasolini’s Christ as ‘Marxist avant la lettre’– but I don’t recall having that reaction either time I saw it… perhaps I’m more touched by the spirit of the age than I think?

  17. marcpuckett says:

    And I do enjoy M. Hulot, and agree with M. Toad that, however much satire Tati was doing, there’s no malice– a chasm has opened up between that world and this, somehow.

  18. toadspittle says:

    Isn’t that a fact, Marc?
    …Although “Hulot” is, after all, a fantasy – and the Second World War had just taken place – a good deal of genuine malice there.
    Hulot himself is a sort of pre-fall holy fool – untainted by life’s realities – and so bound to “fail,” by material standards; unlike the American in the film who is incapable of disconnecting from the actual world, so enjoys nothing. What a remarkably apt comment, from way back in the 1940’s, on today’s “Ipod, Wifi-connected, Twitter,” society, that is, by the way!
    And the cloudless little French resort surely represents the lost Eden.
    On reflection, I’m beginning to think Hulot is vastly more “Christian,” and considerably more profound – than I originally gave it credit for. A hugely-enjoyable, unmissable, sermon, in fact.

    “Pasolini’s Christ as ‘Marxist avant la lettre’ -“
    Jesus as The Original Commie was modish at one time (the 60’s?).
    …Still is, for all I know.

    Christ always looks just like us, doesn’t he? Tidied-up a bit, of course.
    That is to say, I suppose, he always looks the way we want him to look.
    For fourteenth-century Flemish artists, Christ looked like a fourteenth-century Flem.
    Inevitable, really. Must make him in our own image. Nothing else will do.

    (That’s enough homespun philosophy for one morning Toad. Go to church.)

  19. johnhenrycn says:

    Toad often has valuable things to say on literary and cultural topics (not religion), and I was very glad to be introduced to Monsieur Hulot (Mr. Bean or what?); and I apologise for calling him (Toad) a fool-born maggot-pie some years ago (on another blog) when I was young and feisty.

    Michael, because you said Into Great Silence is one of you favourites, as indeed it is one of mine, I think mention should also be made of No Greater Love, about life in a monastery of Discalced Carmelites in London. You likely have heard of it, but others reading here may not have.

  20. mkenny114 says:


    Good call on No Greater Love – wonderful film! I am also going to have to chase down the full-length version of Mr. Hulot’s Holiday (thanks for posting Toad) as it does look very funny indeed (and I can indeed see now why Mr. Bean is so popular in France!)


    I didn’t get that impression re Pasolini’s Christ either. In fact, I think Pasolini was criticised by his Marxist ‘brethren’ at the time for making his re-telling of the Gospel too pious (to which his response was something along the lines of ‘I’m a neo-realist director, this is my subject matter – what did you expect?’) This is one of the really remarkable things about the film (and testament to Pasolini’s artistic integrity) – that despite having conviction very much at odds with the Gospel (to put it mildly), the director’s commitment to his source material was such that he managed to transcend his own prejudices and let the story come through.

  21. toadspittle says:

    Well, you will enjoy Hulot, Michael – or I’m a Frenchman.

    …For myself, I will dig out Pasolini.

    Serendipitous, your kindly comment JH – as I’ve just re-read “Eminent Victorians,” and wondered what you made of the Cardinal Manning chapter, which might as well be called the Cardinal Newman chapter, so inextricably intertwined were they (according to Strachey.)

  22. johnhenrycn says:

    It’s been 40+ years since I read Strachey’s vignettes, Toad, but entertaining though they were, I don’t recall them as being deep analyses of their subjects. In terms comparing their philosophical and theological perspectives, I’d suggest to you that Manning was a reactionary sort of convert, whereas Newman was moderately liberal in his views, keeping in mind that we’re referring to the liberalsim of the 19th century, not the late 20th century.

  23. mkenny114 says:

    Toad, based on the clip you shared, I am almost certain I will enjoy it too 🙂

    Also, as you mentioned the Strachey book, and earlier Kathleen mentioned the book on Lourdes by Franz Werfel, anyone have any suggestions for recommended Catholic/Catholic friendly books (to continue the theme…ish)?

  24. GC says:

    One cinematographic effort that greatly affected me in my teenage years was the French Monsieur Vincent,(1947, winning a 1948 Academy in the “special” class, whatever that means) . Of course it was about the life of St Vincent De Paul.

    St Vincent De Paul appears too good to be true, I’ve always thought. not that many of us can be sold into slavery in North Africa after being captured by corsairs, and then go on to have the ears of the French royals, founding hospitals, hospices, leprosaria and such as well as a few religious congregations along the way. All this after being ordained at the ripe old age of 19. Things happened differently in the 16th and 17th centuries for some reason. Thank God we have facebook and things now, so this sort of thing won’t happen any more.

    There appear to be no versions with English subtitles easily available, so Kathleen and Toad have the advantage on us in this original French version with Spanish subtitles.

    Steven Greydanus has reviewed it and even the New York Times said it was all right in 1947.

    Our Monsieur Vincent is another Gascon saint. His hometown of Pouy is only about an hour’s drive from the Lourdes of St Bernadette.

  25. toadspittle says:

    ..And, after all that, cut his ear off. Ooops! wrong Vincent.

    Not sure Strachey really gets too many brownie points for “Catholic Friendly,” Michael.
    He appears neutral and objective on the subject, though – or so it appears to me.

    Slightly off topic, we have a priest and five seminarians in town from the Society of Pius X, in North America – who have just said Mass in Latin. My thoughts on that might follow. They (the clerics, that is, not my thoughts) all wear soutanes, and two of them are ill, very likely because of wearing them in the 90 degree heat.
    We are now washing their surplices and things. For our sins.

  26. mkenny114 says:

    Sorry Toad, I wasn’t meaning to imply that Strachey was Catholic friendly (or unfriendly for that matter), just using the book references as a springboard for a potential discussion on Catholic literature. Shall try to be clearer in the future 🙂

  27. toadspittle says:

    Nothing to apologise for Michael. I’ve really no idea what Strachey’s views on Catholicism were myself – never having read Holroyd’s biography.

    In my youth, Catholic literature meant Greene and, to some extent, Waugh.
    I remember being amused by Orwell’s assertion that from Orwell’s assertion that:
    “He [Greene] appears to share the idea, which has been floating around ever since Baudelaire, that there is something rather distingue in being damned; Hell is a sort of high class night club, entry to which is reserved for Catholics only.”
    …But then, Orwell thought Catholicism was, “…a racket.”

  28. mkenny114 says:

    Well, Greene and Waugh are certainly a good place to start (The Power and the Glory and Brideshead Revisited are both belters!)

    The quote from Orwell is an interesting one, and probably has some degree of truth to it – though I think Eric/George has only captured half the truth there. Whilst Greene could certainly be said to be slightly obsessed with damnation, I don’t think it was the case that he thought it was ‘for Catholics only’, rather that in Catholicism he saw the eternal significance of the earthly choices we make emphasised to a greater extent than in the platitudes of the established church in England, and found this to be a much more powerful and consistent setting for the drama of human existence to be played out before.

    Basically, I think Greene saw that it is the possibility of damnation that gives our moral choices the significance we feel them to have, and makes life, and thus all good fiction, possible. His complicated relationship with Catholicism was I think sustained – at least in part – by what he saw as its greater resources for imaginative engagement with the world (the possibility of damnation being one of the most notable of these in his work).

  29. kathleen says:

    @ Michael

    Although I’m pretty sure you are far “better read” than me anyway 😉 you might find this EWTN radio link useful:
    It contains a series of discussions about Catholic authors and their books, most of them well known classics, but some not so much. Unfortunately it doesn’t include more recent Catholic authors, like the great Michael Davies, Dietrich von Hildebrand, Joanna Bogle etc., all highly recommendable.

    Other really good books that were later made into films were “The Cardinal” and “Quo Vadis” (already mentioned).

  30. kathleen says:

    @ GC

    Surprising – it was only just recently on a bus (on the return journey from Lourdes) that I watched “Monsieur Vincent” for the first time! I had to keep averting my eyes from the Spanish subtitles to watch the windy road (to avoid getting giddy) as the bus was swinging along at breakneck speed, but I understand French quite well anyway. It was a pretty gruesome film in parts, but yes, what an amazing saint!

  31. mkenny114 says:

    Thank you Kathleen – that’s a great list! Some on there that I have been meaning to get around to reading for a while now too (e.g.; Manzoni’s The Betrothed and Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter), so now I have no excuse! Also, the talks on those I have read should provide plenty of edifying distraction 🙂

  32. GC says:

    johnhenry, our old friend, suggested “Inn of the Sixth Happiness” as a good watch. I can only agree, if only because it is a chance to view Ingrid Bergman speaking the most appalling Mandarin Chinese.

    It’s based on the “The Small Woman”, an account of Gladys Aylward and her missionary activity in China for the protestant China Inland Mission.

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