December 11, 2016
I only knew the name Poveda in association with one of the exclusive school for girls located near the Robinsons Galleria Mall in Mandaluyong City. All this time, I never knew, nor took time to find out who the person behind the name was. Now comes this Spanish film released this week that promised to tell us about the life of this man and his role in history.
Pedro Poveda was an idealistic priest who was never satisfied with the status quo. He constantly strove to seek out under-served sectors of society and innovate on existing systems to improve service delivery. The film started with his work among the cave-dwellers of Guadix in Granada in 1901, an advocacy which drew a lot of envy and intrigue among the other priests.
In 1911, he turned his attention to Education and started the Teresian Association in Covadonga, Asturias, with the aim of training lay women to become Christian teachers. As this association got more popular, especially under the dedicated leadership of Josefa "Pepita" Segovia, Poveda formed dangerous political enemies who did not favor Church involvement in education. As the Spanish Civil War broke out in the 1930s, Fr. Poveda was one of the prime targets of the paramilitary forces.
This film, co-written and directed by Pablo Moreno, respected and loved its subject. The unselfish heroism of Fr. Pedro Poveda was shown in its best light. The story was told clearly in flashbacks, bookended by scenes set during Poveda's arrest and interrogation during the Civil War. The episodes of joy and tension in Fr. Poveda's life were movingly told, with the emotions coming across effectively. The cinematography, production design and editing aspects were all above average.
Raúl Escudero portrayed Pedro Poveda from his days as a young man to his sixties. He was consistent in his earnestness and sincerity. We can feel the warmth, kindness and the approachability of the man in Escudero's performance. When Poveda was captured for questioning during the war, it was realistic how he was able to soften his interrogator's aggressiveness with his gentleness and good will.
Elena Furiase played his dedicated disciple Pepita Segovia with dignity and solemnity. My personal favorite actress was Silvia Garcia who played the cheerful teacher Marina. Her comical episodes broke the seriousness of the proceedings. All the children in this film were an adorable joy to watch with their natural innocence and energy as caught by the camera.
Being a film about a Catholic saint, it is expected that good and bad here are well-defined. The good guys are kind, virtuous and faultless, while the bad guys reeked with jealousy, deceit and violence. The field of education was the battleground where Fr. Poveda bravely stood his ground against secularization. This film clearly achieves its aim to promote the heroism of Fr. Poveda. For Catholic religious educators and students, the way Fr. Poveda lived his life is most definitely admirable and inspirational. 8/10.