A swarm of demonstrators turn up at the New York Film Festival premiere of Benedetta with protest signs. But the uproar only drew the attention which Paul Verhoeven’s film needed.
Verhoeven’s film debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it received a five-minute standing ovation. The film, Benedetta is based on the true story of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century nun who had an affair with a fellow nun. Virginie Efira, Lambert Wilson, Daphne Patakia, and Charlotte Rampling star in the picture.
The story is loosely based on Judith C. Brown’s 1986 non-fiction book, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy.
It’s a French-language drama about a 17th-century nun, engaged in a forbidden lesbian affair. When Benedetta begins to see disturbing religious visions, her newfound knowledge threatens to shake the Catholic Church to its foundations.
Picketed by Demonstrators
Last month, the New York Film Festival premiere was (predictably) picketed by Catholic demonstrators.
“Why the endless insults to Jesus?” reads one sign, held by a member of the American Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property.
— 59th New York Film Festival (@TheNYFF) September 26, 2021
The group, which claims to represent the views of Catholic Americans, has 120,000 members. They actively protest family planning clinics. Their website also contains petitions against Amazon Prime movies, LGBTQIA+ sellers on Etsy, Netflix, Kellogg’s cereal and rainbow-coloured Lego toys.
Catholic protestors highly offended by the lesbian nuns in BENEDETTA and have taken to protesting outside NYFF & its uhhhhm wild pic.twitter.com/M5qUUDV5Af
— Inglorious Baguettes🖤 (@morebaguettes) September 26, 2021
This public protest is the first major Catholic protest of a New York Film Festival film since Kevin Smith’s 1999 Dogma. Attendees agreed that the protest may have actually assisted in promoting the film’s release.
Walked past this group of ~20 protestors to get to my 3:00pm screening at Alice Tully Hall. The movie? BENEDETTA. And they are upset about its “blasphemous” portrayal of nuns and Catholicism. They’re repeatedly saying Hail Mary’s into megaphones. Good publicity for the movie! pic.twitter.com/BPpf7Rjblu
— Christian Blauvelt (@ctblauvelt) September 26, 2021
There’s no better way to get the public’s attention than for protesters to show up with placards, condemning your feature.
If I was on the Benedetta PR/distribution team, I’d immediately release a poster with “blasphemous lesbian movie” as a prominent quote. https://t.co/FI5lHTDDaN
— Rafa Sales Ross (@rafiews) September 26, 2021
It’s True, Mostly
The latest output from eclectic Dutch director Paul Verhoeven has been heavily criticised for a sequence in which a statue of the Virgin Mary is used as a sex toy.
Contrary to popular belief, it may surprise you to learn that Verhoeven is actually a religious fanatic. He co-authored the book Jesus of Nazareth in 2007. Years ago, he was all set to make a film called Jesus: The Man. Now, he merges his sex-forward auteurship with his passion for religious themes, examining the hypocrisy that exists within faith.
In response to claims of blasphemy, the Basic Instinct and Showgirls director told reporters at Cannes,
“I don’t understand really how you can be blasphemous about something that happened. Even if it’s in 1625, it’s true, mostly. Of course, we changed a little bit.”
Indiewire reports that inside the theatre, programmer Dennis Lim asked the audience “How many Catholics are with us?”. Around a third of the audience put their hands up. Lim went on to thank the Catholic League for protesting outside, adding that “Verhoeven doesn’t provoke without a purpose.”
As Verhoeven, tells The Hollywood Reporter,
“ I don’t think the film will be scandalous – at least not in Western Europe. Maybe Americans will see it differently, though. There is more puritanism in the US. I saw that with Basic Instinct and even more with Showgirls.”
Benedetta receives its UK premiere at the 2021 London Film Festival in October. Australians will receive it by February 2022 via Hi Gloss Entertainment and Vendetta Films. Check out the trailer below:
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