This essay is the third in a series of Lenten reflections on world cinema and social justice. Throughout Lent, Nicole-Ann Lobo will choose a different classic film, using it as a point of departure for a meditation on race, spirituality, and social change. Catch up on her first and second pieces, and check back soon for the next installment.
The opening scene of Aldo Francia’s Ya No Basta Con Rezar (1972) features trams moving down the hilly coast of Valparaíso, the city’s colorful buildings in view and rhythmic chants on the soundtrack. The film, whose title translates to “It is no longer enough to pray,” is set during the Eduardo Frei Montalva presidency in mid-1960s Chile and includes many mesmerizing shots of the coastal city and its natural beauty. But it’s hardly an ode to its remarkable setting. Instead, it’s an indictment of a society’s gross inequality.
Ya No Basta Con Rezar follows Father Jaime—a young priest played by Chilean actor Marcelo Romo—as he awakens to the poverty and inequality gripping Valparaíso. Initially, he works with the more conservative Father Justo in a parish serving a bourgeois community. The parishioners give alms and attempt to organize events for the poor, but their lives are marked by excess: ornate jewelry, stylish clothing, lavish parties. One of the richest of Jaime’s parishioners owns a shipyard (the film later follows its workers as they go on strike).
Jaime’s anguish builds upon realizing the need to side with the poor. As workers are about to stage a protest in the hills, Jaime reads a passage from Matthew 23 in his bedroom: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” it begins, Jesus’s exhortation on the insufficiency of Pharisaical piety in the absence of mercy, justice, and faithfulness. At the protest, Jaime runs through the unfolding chaos and picks up the body of a wounded man; moments later, we see him at a luxurious dinner, clearly unsettled by the surroundings and the jarring laughter of his upper-class parishioners, who drink from crystal stemware, and eat from plates overflowing with food.