A new documentary retells the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe and how she led to the conversion of millions of Aztecs Film still by George Hosek

Film reveals how Mary transformed a culture

By  Regina Rhae Contreras, Youth Speak News
  • December 11, 2015

Mother Mary is the “Mother of the civilization of love,” according to a new documentary film, Guadalupe: The Miracle and the Message.

The film premieres on Salt+Light in time for Our Lady of Guadalupe’s feast day on Dec. 12. It focuses on the conversion of Aztecs to Catholicism due to the apparition and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In 1531, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a humble servant, Juan Diego, on a hill in Villa de Guadalupe, outside Mexico City. On Dec. 12, Juan Diego was instructed by the Mexican archbishop to go back up the hill to ask for a miracle. The apparition told him to gather Castilian roses in his tilma, or cloak. When he presented the flowers to the archbishop, his tilma revealed the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Since then, the image has become one of the most popular religious and cultural symbols in Mexico. The documentary follows the history of the indigenous Aztec people experiencing a raw and sincere conversion through Our Lady of Guadalupe that transformed their culture of death to new life.

“One of the main reasons we set out to make this film is to raise awareness of the truth that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the source for unity of the American continent,” said director David Naglieri. “If we look at what New Spain was like in the 16th century, where it reached, what territories it covered, we find that a good part of the United States, what is the United States today, was included in New Spain.”

The documentary does an excellent job at providing viewpoints of the conversions. It allows the audience to understand the power and true mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe, proving the miracle behind her symbol through the tilma.

I enjoyed the parts of the film where it focused primarily on the tilma and its existence.Over almost 500 years, the tilma has been exposed to smoke, floods and intense heat, but still remains intact. It even survived a bomb that destroyed its altar in 1921, but left the icon itself unharmed. These facts and moments show just how amazing and powerful the tilma and Our Lady of Guadalupe truly is.

An interesting part of the documentary is the part where it explains the significance of the images on the tilma as major symbols that led to the conversion of the Aztecs. A major aspect that resonates even today is Our Lady’s skin colour, appearing as a mestiza. Her skin tone is that of the Aztecs, which really touched many hearts. The people were truly able to identify with her and show that she understands them and their struggle.

“One aspect that struck me in a particular way was the whole notion of transforming a culture,” said Naglieri. “We see a dramatic change following the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe which triggers one of the greatest conversions to the Catholic faith in history. In 1544, 13 years after the apparition, Mexico faces one of the worst droughts in its history. Typically this would have led to the mass sacrifice of children, yet in 1544 it instead leads to a mass pilgrimage of young children to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.”

The film demonstrates that the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe has created a civilization of love. It takes advantage of modern technological advances to bring the story of Guadalupe to life.

Canadian cinematographer George Hosek’s use of 3D visual effects provides a new glimpse into the intricate details of the tilma. Seeing the small details and how they added to the miracle and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe allows a better understanding of how it inspired great devotion among the Aztecs.

The documentary is a film to understand Our Lady of Guadalupe’s mission in appearing to the people, focusing on the history as opposed to the apparition itself. It is a humble attempt to share a powerful and inspiring story of conversion and unity of love.

(Contreras, 20, is a Creative Communications student at the University of Winnipeg.)

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