Monday, January 23, 2012

"Dom Fragoso": New film tells the story of a bishop devoted to Brazil's rural poor

by Ana Cecília Soares (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Diario do Nordeste

The life of Dom Fragoso (1920-2006) has been made into a documentary through the eyes of Francis Vale.

A simple man, educated and with a big heart, these are some of the qualities for which Dom Antonio Batista de Fragoso (1920-2006) was known. The priest, who was bishop of the Diocese of Crateús (Ceará, Brazil) for 34 years, from 1964 to 1998, supported the principles of liberation theology and stood out for his pastoral work among the poorest and rural workers.

During the military dictatorship, he fought courageously against its atrocities, denouncing abroad the crimes committed against those who opposed the political regime and because of that, often being threatened with prison or branded by the military as "persona non grata."

Dom Fragoso gained international fame for his pioneering work in establishing a new syle of Church that served as a model in Latin America. He broke with the rigid hierarchical Catholic structure that differentiated between bishops and faithful. After he left the Diocese of Crateús in the late 1990s, he retired and went to live with his family in João Pessoa (PB).

The film

The journey of struggle, linked to the pastoral mission of Dom Fragoso has become a documentary, produced by filmmaker Francis Vale. The film was screened for the first time in November 2011 in Crateús. A second version, with subtitles in Spanish, English, Portuguese and Italian is due to come out in March of this year.

Francis Vale has long been interested in the story of this priest. According to the filmmaker, his family is from Crateús and when he was on vacation from law school he would go to visit his parents, saying he had contact with some people who lived closely with the cleric. "Dom Fragoso's devotion to popular causes was his greatest legacy. There weren't any rural unions; it was the priest who helped to create them. Today, we find rural workers' organizations in all the municipalities of Ceará, most of them well structured and productive," he says.

To Francis Vale, Dom Fragoso was a man who was bold for his time, developing an organized project of great humanitarian import. "He confronted the military dictatorship to defend his cause. In the documentary, Dom Hélder Câmara, then archbishop of Olinda and Recife, tells about how he acted in defense of the priest when he knew he was going to be arrested. I think that's why they backed off and Dom Fragoso wasn't jailed," says Francis.

The 71-minute long documentary, which bears the name of the priest, presents the struggle of Dom Fragoso, based on testimonies of people who worked with him, images of the Ceará interior, and his own recollections. The latter were filmed shortly before his death in August 2006.

Francis Vale explains that the goal of the documentary is to portray the example of Dom Fragoso. "Just from conversing with him, we had more than two hours worth of taped material. The film also features photos, documents, newspapers and pictures of him." As far as showing "Dom Fragroso", he notes that it's not going to circulate in the movie theatres. "The big cinemas are very closed. The film is being made into a DVD. The first version can be bought for R$ 20 from the Instituto Dom Fragoso - (88) 9679.7467 -in Crateús. The documentary is aimed at film clubs, communities, settlements, ultimately, wherever the people are," he concludes.

Trailer for "Dom Fragoso"


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