The Penitent (1988)

PG-13 | 94 mins | Drama | 27 May 1988

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HISTORY

The following written prologue precedes opening credits: “In remote villages of New Mexico, Colorado and northern Mexico a group known as the Penitenté continue to this day a 200 year tradition. Every year, before Easter, one of the Penitenté is chosen to hang on a cross -- to be crucified. Whether he lives or dies depends on his courage and strength or as the Penitenté say ‘God’s will.’”
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that filming started on 7 Jul 1986, while a 23 Jul 1986 Var production chart noted that principal photography began on 14 Jul 1986. As a production headquarters was set up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, filming took place in and around the village of Pozos, a four-hour drive northwest of Mexico City, after producer Michael Fitzgerald spent two years reworking Cliff Osmond's script and raising money. The production built the house where “Ramon” and “Celia” lived, and furnished it with items purchased from local villagers. Two barns and a small chapel were also constructed. According to the files, the “obscure Medieval Spanish traditions” depicted in the film are still practiced in remote parts of Mexico, despite a 1949 ban by the Catholic Church.
       The 12 Aug 1986 DV noted that filming was completed.
       An 11 Jul 1986 DV item noted Herb Jaffe was attached to the production as executive producer, but he is not credited onscreen.
       According to the 28 Oct 1987 Var, Heron Communications filed a lawsuit against Vista Organization regarding home video rights to the picture and nine additional Vista-produced films. Heron claimed Vista was “attempting to renege ... More Less

The following written prologue precedes opening credits: “In remote villages of New Mexico, Colorado and northern Mexico a group known as the Penitenté continue to this day a 200 year tradition. Every year, before Easter, one of the Penitenté is chosen to hang on a cross -- to be crucified. Whether he lives or dies depends on his courage and strength or as the Penitenté say ‘God’s will.’”
       Production notes in AMPAS library files state that filming started on 7 Jul 1986, while a 23 Jul 1986 Var production chart noted that principal photography began on 14 Jul 1986. As a production headquarters was set up in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, filming took place in and around the village of Pozos, a four-hour drive northwest of Mexico City, after producer Michael Fitzgerald spent two years reworking Cliff Osmond's script and raising money. The production built the house where “Ramon” and “Celia” lived, and furnished it with items purchased from local villagers. Two barns and a small chapel were also constructed. According to the files, the “obscure Medieval Spanish traditions” depicted in the film are still practiced in remote parts of Mexico, despite a 1949 ban by the Catholic Church.
       The 12 Aug 1986 DV noted that filming was completed.
       An 11 Jul 1986 DV item noted Herb Jaffe was attached to the production as executive producer, but he is not credited onscreen.
       According to the 28 Oct 1987 Var, Heron Communications filed a lawsuit against Vista Organization regarding home video rights to the picture and nine additional Vista-produced films. Heron claimed Vista was “attempting to renege on its commitment,” because of a possible merger with Carolco Pictures. However, Vista chair Seymour Malamed reported there was never an agreement between Vista and Heron. The outcome of this suit could not be determined.
       A brief in the 28 Oct 1987 HR reported that the film’s release was scheduled for Feb 1988, but the picture opened three months later on 27 May 1988 in Los Angeles, CA, and New York City. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
11 Jul 1986
p. 3.
Daily Variety
12 Aug 1986
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Oct 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Jun 1988
p. 8.
Los Angeles Times
27 May 1988
Calendar, p. 4.
New York Times
27 May 1988
Section C, p. 13.
Variety
23 Jul 1986
p. 28.
Variety
28 Oct 1987
p. 40.
Variety
18 May 1988
p. 16.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Michael & Kathy Fitzgerald present
An Ithaca-Cinevest Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
PRODUCERS
WRITER
ART DIRECTOR
Prod illustrator
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
Prop asst
Prop asst
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus ed
Mus orch
Mus contractor
Rec facilities
SOUND
Sd mixer
Asst sd ed
Post prod facilities
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff/Const foreman
Spec eff/Const
Spec eff/Const
MAKEUP
Hair
Hairdresser
Makeup artist
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Asst to prod
Scr supv
Unit pub
Union delegate
Prod coord
Prod secy
Loc auditor
Loc liaison transportation
Chief of staff
Prod asst
Loc doctor
Generator op
Completion bond/Vista representative
Actors delegate
Government censor
Government censor
Projectionist
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col by
DETAILS
Release Date:
27 May 1988
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 27 May 1988
Production Date:
7-14 July -- early August 1986
Copyright Claimant:
The Vista Organization Partnership, L.P.
Copyright Date:
11 January 1988
Copyright Number:
PA0000375823
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
94
Length(in feet):
17,627
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28518
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In a small village in Mexico, farmer Ramon Guerola enters into an arranged marriage with young Celia. Although Celia loves Ramon, she is afraid to be intimate. Later, Ramon’s closest childhood friend, Juan Mateo, returns to the village after spending five years in prison. At Ramon’s insistence, Juan stays with him and Celia. During his visit, Juan is surprised to learn that Ramon has joined the Penitents, a religious sect that practices flagellation and reenacts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ every Easter with a chosen member. While Ramon attends worship, Juan and Celia make love. Ramon accidentally witnesses their infidelity, but sees that Celia is happy and does not confront them. During Holy Week, Jose, the chosen Penitent member to be the Christo, falls ill and is informed he might not survive the ritual. After consulting the doctrine, the sect announces Jose’s companion, Ramon, will take his place. Meanwhile, Juan realizes he is in love with Celia and asks her to leave Ramon. Watching Ramon prepare to be the Christo, Juan learns that Celia could never be with another man if Ramon dies during the reenactment. Having gained strength and resilience in prison, Juan volunteers to take Ramon’s place, and is tied to the cross. Juan survives, and returns the following day to Ramon’s farm to ask Celia to come away with him. However, Celia says he is now the Christo, and she cannot be with him. Although Juan insists he performed the crucifixion for her, Celia refuses his love. As Juan prepares to leave, Ramon thanks him for taking his place. When Juan asks Ramon if he knew his ... +


In a small village in Mexico, farmer Ramon Guerola enters into an arranged marriage with young Celia. Although Celia loves Ramon, she is afraid to be intimate. Later, Ramon’s closest childhood friend, Juan Mateo, returns to the village after spending five years in prison. At Ramon’s insistence, Juan stays with him and Celia. During his visit, Juan is surprised to learn that Ramon has joined the Penitents, a religious sect that practices flagellation and reenacts the crucifixion of Jesus Christ every Easter with a chosen member. While Ramon attends worship, Juan and Celia make love. Ramon accidentally witnesses their infidelity, but sees that Celia is happy and does not confront them. During Holy Week, Jose, the chosen Penitent member to be the Christo, falls ill and is informed he might not survive the ritual. After consulting the doctrine, the sect announces Jose’s companion, Ramon, will take his place. Meanwhile, Juan realizes he is in love with Celia and asks her to leave Ramon. Watching Ramon prepare to be the Christo, Juan learns that Celia could never be with another man if Ramon dies during the reenactment. Having gained strength and resilience in prison, Juan volunteers to take Ramon’s place, and is tied to the cross. Juan survives, and returns the following day to Ramon’s farm to ask Celia to come away with him. However, Celia says he is now the Christo, and she cannot be with him. Although Juan insists he performed the crucifixion for her, Celia refuses his love. As Juan prepares to leave, Ramon thanks him for taking his place. When Juan asks Ramon if he knew his wife would reject him after the ritual, Roman states he only knew that he did not want to die. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.