Review: ‘Fatima’ (2020), starring Joaquim de Almeida, Goran Višnjić, Stephanie Gil, Jorge Lamelas, Lúcia Moniz, Alejandra Howard, Sônia Braga and Harvey Keitel

August 27, 2020

by Carla Hay

Jorge Lamelas, Alejandra Howard and Stephanie Gil in “Fatima” (Photo by Claudio Iannone/Picturehouse)

“Fatima” (2020)

Directed by Marco Pontecorvo

Culture Representation: Taking place in Portugal mostly in 1917 and briefly in 1989, the religious drama “Fatima” features a cast of mostly Portuguese characters (although many of the actors portraying them are from other countries, such as Spain and Brazil), with one American, representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash:  Controversy ensues after two girls and a boy claim to see visions of the Virgin Mary in Fátima, Portugal.

Culture Audience: “Fatima” will appeal mostly to people interested in Catholic history or stories of religious miracles, but the movie takes such a dull and repetitive approach to the subject matter that it might turn off viewers looking for a more substantial film.

Lúcia Moniz, Marco D’Almeida and Stephanie Gil in “Fatima” (Photo by Claudio Iannone/Picturehouse)

Do you believe in miracles? The answer to that question might determine how inclined you might be to watch the religious drama “Fatima,” which is based on the true story of three Catholic children in Portugal who claimed to communicate with the Virgin Mary, beginning in 1917. Regardless if viewers have any religious or spiritual beliefs or not, the movie is so boring that it treats the subject matter as if should be told as a repetitive and droning religious lecture instead of an intriguing story with richly detailed characters. Unfortunately, director Marco Pontecorvo infuses the movie with too much tacky melodrama that cheapens the impact of the “miracle scenes.”

Most of the movie takes place in 1917, when Portugal was fighting in World War I, but parts of the movie are intercut with scenes that take place in 1989. In the 1989 scenes, an elderly Portuguese Catholic nun named Sister Lúcia (played by Sônia Braga) is being interviewed by an American visitor named Professor Nichols (played by Harvey Keitel) at her convent in Coimbra, Portugal. Professor Nichols is a religion scholar who doesn’t believe in miracles, while Sister Lúcia is famous for saying that she experienced miracles.

Professor Nicholas is visiting Sister Lúcia to ask her about her miracle experiences that she had as a child, when she and two of her cousins were at the center of a religious controversy. The professor and the nun agree to disagree on whether or not what she experienced was real. And they admit that have both have a fascination with people who have views that are opposite of their own opinions. Sister Lúcia laments to Professor Nichols that people still haven’t learned from the messages of peace that she got from her heavenly visions.

The movie’s flashbacks to 1917 show that 10-year-old Lúcia (played by Stephanie Gil) was a spirited and fairly obedient child who lived with her family in the village of Aljustrel, on the outskirts of Fátima, Portugal. Lúcia frequently accompanies her strict and religious mother Maria (played by Lúcia Moniz) to the village for shopping trips. Maria and Lúcia also gather in the village square for announcements about which local soldiers have died or have been declared missing. These tension-filled and emotional scenes demonstrate the harsh realities of war experienced by the soldiers’ loved ones who are left behind to worry about the soldiers’ well-being and fate.

“Fatima” doesn’t waste time showing that Lúcia has the ability to see religious visions. In one of the movie’s early scenes, Lúcia is in a cave, where she not only sees and hears a female angel, but Lúcia also sees visions of her bother Ti Manuel, also known as Manuel (played by Elmano Sancho), who is a soldier in the war. This scene is an example of the simplistic dialogue and schmaltzy direction that plague most of this movie.

“Who are you?” Lúcia asks the angel. The angel replies, “I am the angel of peace. I am the angel of Portugal.” While Lúcia sees terrible visions of a battlefield, she calls out desperately to Manuel, while doom and gloom music plays as if Lúcia is in a haunted house. “They don’t seem to want to stop,” the angel says of the people fighting in the war. The angel then leads Lúcia in a prayer session.

Lúcia comes from a family of farmers, so she helps out as a shepherd. One day, while she and her two younger cousins Jacinta (played by Alejandra Howard) and Francisco (played by Jorge Lamelas) are outside playing in a remote field in Fátima, they see a vision of the Virgin Mary (played by Joana Ribeiro). Actually, Lúcia sees the Virgin Mary first, and then Jacinta and Francisco see the Virgin Mary too.

Lúcia is the one with the best communication with the Virgin Mary, since the Virgin Mary speaks directly with Lúcia at all times, while Jacinta and Francisco (who are siblings) sometimes can’t hear what the Virgin Mary is saying. The Virgin Mary tells the three children that they must meet her at that location at the same time, every month for the next six months. Lúcia and Francisco tell Jacinta to keep this vision a secret, but Jacinta tells her parents, and soon the word spreads, causing alarm with some of the adults in the area.

Lúcia’s mother Maria is immediately skeptical that the children saw the Virgin Mary. She takes Lúcia to see a priest named Father Ferreira (played by Joaquim de Almeida), who also doubts that Lúcia is telling the truth. He warns Maria that even if Lúcia saw any visions, these visions could be the devil working in disguise. This thought makes Maria more determined to get Lúcia to try to go back to being a “normal” child, especially when Maria thinks that Lúcia could be branded as mentally ill or possessed by the devil.

Maria’s methods of controlling Lúcia are sometimes harsh and abusive, since she punishes Lúcia by slapping her and making threats, such as telling Lúcia that if these visions ruin the family, Maria will never forgive Lúcia. Maria also becomes irrational when she tells Lúcia that if Manuel doesn’t come back to the family, it will all be Lúcia’s fault, as if Lúcia has some kind of control over what happens during the war. Lúcia, Jacinta and Francisco also risk getting punished by their parents because they are determined to keep their promise to meet the Virgin Mary at the same place and time, every month for the next six months.

Lúcia’s father António (played by Marco D’Almeida) tries to be more understanding of the situation and doesn’t react as angrily as his wife Maria does. But António’s patience starts to wear thin after the word spreads of these miracle visions, and all the publicity starts to negatively affect the family’s well-being and safety. Crowds of people flock to the area and walk all over the family’s farming territory, which thereby ruin the crops that the family relies on for their food and income.

Lúcia’s family also starts to experience random strangers coming to their home unannounced to see the “miracle child.” Many of these strangers are on a quest to have their problems solved just by visiting Lúcia, because they believe that Lúcia’s visions come with special healing powers. Maria reacts by telling these unwelcome visitors that they have the wrong house and angrily sends them away. Maria then blames Lúcia for causing these problems for the family.

Meanwhile, Fátima’s ambitious mayor Arturo (played by Goran Višnjić) is inclined to doubt the stories of Virgin Mary visions and miracles happing at the location where the three kids see the Virgin Mary. For example, when a boy with paralyzed legs begins to have slight movement of his legs after vising the “miracle site,” Arturo says that it’s not a miracle because doctors had predicted that the legs would eventually heal with the right attitude and medical therapy.

Arturo is also concerned about how the crowds have turned his city into a public spectacle. He conspires to punish Lúcia, Franciso, and Jacinta, because he thinks that if the stories are all a hoax, it will ruin the reputation of not just the city of Fatima but also his own reputation. And he gets even more anxious about how to deal with the situation when higher-ups in the Catholic Church start to investigate these “miracle sightings.” A visit from Monsenhor Quaresma (played by Joao D’Ávila) ensures that Arturo will be thinking more about his career ambitions rather than any religious messages that come from the Virgin Mary.

One of the biggest problems with “Fatima” is the uneven quality of acting from the three children playing Lúcia, Francisco and Jacinta. Gil (as Lúcia) is an experienced film actor, while Lamelas (as Franciso) and Howard (as Jacinta) make their feature-film debuts in “Fatima.” That lack of experience shows in Lamelas and Howard’s acting, which isn’t at the same level as Gil’s acting talent. It wouldn’t be such a big issue if these three children weren’t at the center of the movie.

The wooden acting in the movie (and not just by some of the children) isn’t the only problem. The screenplay (written by director Pontecaro, Valerio D’Annunzio and Barbara Nicolosi) gets stuck on this monotonous repetition of occurrences: The three kids see the visions. Some of the skeptical adults get annoyed because they don’t believe the children. More people show up to try to witness miracles in person. And the kids getting blamed for anything that goes wrong.

All the characters are written as fairly two-dimensional. The movie doesn’t give enough screen time to Professor Nichols and Sister Lúcia, the only characters in the movie that show hints of having any real depth. It would have been interesting to hear Professor Nichols and Sister Lúcia debate their different opinions over what happened to Lúcia in 1917, when she first reported her visions of the Virgin Mary. But that type of dialogue is avoided in the movie when Professor Nichols tells Sister Lúcia that he doesn’t want to offend her by expressing his skeptical views to her.

And although religious beliefs are a serious matter to a lot of people, “Fatima” pours on such over-the-top schmaltz that some viewers might laugh at how hokey the movie’s scenes are in portraying these religious beliefs. The stilted and unrealistic dialogue, the substandard visual effects and the movie’s overall lumbering tone stifle any unique and high-quality creativity that this film could have had. Whether or not people believe that these Virgin Mary visions really happened, “Fatima” does a disservice to the story by presenting the people involved as tedious and forgettable characters instead of fascinating people.

Picturehouse will release “Fatima” in select U.S. cinemas and VOD on August 28, 2020.

2020 Golden Globe Awards: presenters announced

January 3, 2020

by Carla Hay

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (the organization the votes for the Golden Globe Awards) and Dick Clark Productions (which co-produces the Golden Globes telecast) have announced the presenters of the 2020 Golden Globe Awards ceremony, which takes place January 5 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills California. NBC will have the U.S. telecast of the show, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time/5 p.m. Pacific Time.

Here are the presenters in alphabetical order:

  • Tim Allen
  • Jennifer Aniston*
  • Christian Bale*
  • Antonio Banderas*
  • Jason Bateman
  • Annette Bening*
  • Cate Blanchett*
  • Matt Bomer
  • Pierce Brosnan
  • Glenn Close
  • Daniel Craig*
  • Ted Danson
  • Ana de Armas*
  • Leonardo DiCaprio*
  • Ansel Elgort
  • Chris Evans
  • Dakota Fanning
  • Will Ferrell
  • Lauren Graham
  • Tiffany Haddish
  • Kit Harington*
  • Salma Hayek
  • Scarlett Johansson*
  • Elton John*
  • Nick Jonas
  • Harvey Keitel
  • Zoe Kravitz
  • Jennifer Lopez*
  • Rami Malek*
  • Kate McKinnon
  • Helen Mirren
  • Jason Momoa
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Amy Poehler
  • Brad Pitt*
  • Da’Vine Joy Randolph
  • Margot Robbie*
  • Paul Rudd*
  • Wesley Snipes
  • Octavia Spencer
  • Bernie Taupin*
  • Charlize Theron*
  • Sofia Vergara
  • Kerry Washington
  • Naomi Watts
  • Rachel Weisz
  • Reese Witherspoon*

*2020 Golden Globe Awards nominee

Ricky Gervais is hosting the show. Tom Hanks will be receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award for career achievement, while Ellen DeGeneres will be getting the Carol Burnett Award, which is given to people who have excelled in comedy. The Carol Burnett Award debuted at the Golden Globes in 2019, and Burnett was the first recipient of the prize. Dylan and Paris Brosnan (sons of Pierce Brosnan) will serve as the 2020 Golden Globe Ambassadors.

Click here for a complete list of nominations for the 2020 Golden Globe Awards.

2019 New York Film Festival: ‘The Irishman’ is the opening-night film

July 29, 2019

Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in "The Irishman"
Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in “The Irishman” (Photo by Niko Tavernise/Netflix)

The following is a press release from the Film at Lincoln Center:

Film at Lincoln Center announces Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” as Opening Night of the 57th New York Film Festival (September 27 – October 13), making its World Premiere at Alice Tully Hall on Friday, September 27, 2019. “The Irishman” will be released in select theaters and on Netflix later this year.

“The Irishman” is a richly textured epic of American crime, a dense, complex story told with astonishing fluidity. Based on Charles Brandt’s nonfiction book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” it is a film about friendship and loyalty between men who commit unspeakable acts and turn on a dime against each other, and the possibility of redemption in a world where it seems as distant as the moon. The roster of talent behind and in front of the camera is astonishing, and at the core of “The Irishman” are four great artists collectively hitting a new peak: Joe Pesci as Pennsylvania mob boss Russell Bufalino, Al Pacino as Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa, and Robert De Niro as their right-hand man, Frank Sheeran, each working in the closest harmony imaginable with the film’s incomparable creator, Martin Scorsese.

“’The Irishman’ is so many things: rich, funny, troubling, entertaining and, like all great movies, absolutely singular,” said New York Film Festival Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones. “It’s the work of masters, made with a command of the art of cinema that I’ve seen very rarely in my lifetime, and it plays out at a level of subtlety and human intimacy that truly stunned me. All I can say is that the minute it was over my immediate reaction was that I wanted to watch it all over again.”

“It’s an incredible honor that ‘The Irishman’ has been selected as the Opening Night of the New York Film Festival. I greatly admire the bold and visionary selections that the festival presents to audiences year after year,” said Martin Scorsese. “The festival is critical to bringing awareness to cinema from around the world. I am grateful to have the opportunity to premiere my new picture in New York alongside my wonderful cast and crew.”

Campari is the exclusive spirits partner for the 57th New York Film Festival and the presenting partner of Opening Night, extending its long-standing commitment to the world of film and art.

Presented by Film at Lincoln Center, the 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring works from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FLC Director of Programming, and Florence Almozini, FLC Associate Director of Programming.

Tickets for the 57th New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public on September 8. Festival and VIP passes are on sale now and offer one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events, including Opening Night. Support for Opening Night of the New York Film Festival benefits Film at Lincoln Center in its non-profit mission to support the art and craft of cinema.

New York Film Festival Opening Night Films

2018 The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/US)
2017 Last Flag Flying (Richard Linklater, US)
2016    13TH (Ava DuVernay, US)
2015    The Walk (Robert Zemeckis, US)
2014    Gone Girl (David Fincher, US)
2013    Captain Phillips (Paul Greengrass, US)
2012    Life of Pi (Ang Lee, US)
2011    Carnage (Roman Polanski, France/Poland)
2010    The Social Network (David Fincher, US)
2009    Wild Grass (Alain Resnais, France)
2008    The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
2007    The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, US)
2006    The Queen (Stephen Frears, UK)
2005    Good Night, and Good Luck. (George Clooney, US)
2004    Look at Me (Agnès Jaoui, France)
2003    Mystic River (Clint Eastwood, US)
2002    About Schmidt (Alexander Payne, US)
2001    Va savoir (Jacques Rivette, France)
2000    Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
1999    All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
1998    Celebrity (Woody Allen, US)
1997    The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, US)
1996    Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh, UK)
1995    Shanghai Triad (Zhang Yimou, China)
1994    Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, US)
1993    Short Cuts (Robert Altman, US)
1992    Olivier Olivier (Agnieszka Holland, France)
1991    The Double Life of Veronique (Krzysztof Kieslowski, Poland/France)
1990    Miller’s Crossing (Joel Coen, US)
1989    Too Beautiful for You (Bertrand Blier, France)
1988    Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain)
1987    Dark Eyes (Nikita Mikhalkov, Soviet Union)
1986    Down by Law (Jim Jarmusch, US)
1985    Ran (Akira Kurosawa, Japan)
1984    Country (Richard Pearce, US)
1983    The Big Chill (Lawrence Kasdan, US)
1982    Veronika Voss (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany)
1981    Chariots of Fire (Hugh Hudson, UK)
1980    Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme, US)
1979    Luna (Bernardo Bertolucci, Italy/US)
1978    A Wedding (Robert Altman, US)
1977    One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (Agnès Varda, France)
1976    Small Change (François Truffaut, France)
1975    Conversation Piece (Luchino Visconti, Italy)
1974    Don’t Cry with Your Mouth Full (Pascal Thomas, France)
1973    Day for Night (François Truffaut, France)
1972    Chloe in the Afternoon (Eric Rohmer, France)
1971    The Debut (Gleb Panfilov, Soviet Union)
1970    The Wild Child (François Truffaut, France)
1969    Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (Paul Mazursky, US)
1968    Capricious Summer (Jiri Menzel, Czechoslovakia)
1967    The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy/Algeria)
1966    Loves of a Blonde (Milos Forman, Czechoslovakia)
1965    Alphaville (Jean-Luc Godard, France)
1964    Hamlet (Grigori Kozintsev, USSR)
1963    The Exterminating Angel (Luis Buñuel, Mexico)

 

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