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Review: 'Fatima' Offers Hope, Lacks Faith

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Oct 28, 2020
Review: 'Fatima' Offers Hope, Lacks Faith

Magic — the supernatural and the spellbinding — is not only possible in the movies, it's anticipated. On the screen, dreams come to life before our eyes. This is the hallmark of the blockbuster, and why we flock to spectacles involving superheroes. The little guy can always take on the monopoly in the movies. And making the impossible possible is no longer just for Americans, it's a worldwide cinematic vision.

"Fatima" is the story of a poor, 10-year-old shepherd girl who stubbornly persists against all odds, first defying her mother, then her nation's government. She eventually becomes a viral sensation, but she doesn't stop until she goes head to head with the Supreme Pontiff — and wins his endorsement.

It's 1917. After a violent overthrow of the monarchy, Portugal has become a republic caught up in the horrors of the First World War. With so many loved ones wounded, missing, and lost to battle, the people are looking to religion for answers.

Three small shepherd children, led by Lúcia dos Santos (Stephanie Gil), feel that they can provide some of those answers — because, they say, the Mother of God has appeared to them in visions.

Rather than just blowing the kids off, the community becomes hostile. The officially secular First Portuguese Republic considers Lúcia's prophecies to be politically motivated acts of rebellion. Based on a real event known as the Miracle of the Sun, these poor little kids, Lúcia and her cousins, end up going down in history.

Faith-based stories are the stuff that movie dreams are made of because we love to live beyond the limits of our meager lives. Anything is possible if the least among us can converse with the Holy Mary. Anything is possible if a small girl can bring 40,000 people to a remote Portuguese town on a pilgrimage of faith.

Movies of this magnificent genre will live long in our imagination. Think of the evocative lines "Whenever a bell rings an angel gets its wings" and "If you build it, he will come." But "Fatima" is not likely to be one of them, because even though it shows the fantastic, it fails to show the other side. (Consider that it was also words from the mouths of babes that led to the careening mass hysteria in Salem of 1692.)

"Faith begins at the edges of understanding," Lúcia says as an adult. But faith also requires doubt to be something other than ignorance and self-deception. The script doesn't inspire us toward belief because it never stops to question itself. It doesn't really allow us, the audience, to take a leap of faith, support our protagonist's cockeyed notions, and willingly suspend our disbelief. In order to have hope, one must first have despair, and in order to have true faith, one must first have doubt.

"Fatima" just doesn't give us that.

"Fatima," now available on DVD, offers many special features, though, such as footage of the legendary tenor Andrea Bocelli recording the film's theme song, writer/director Marco Pontecorvo discussing the making of the movie, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of the cast, the set and the costume design.

"Fatima" Is now available on DVD.

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