Adapting "El Filibusterismo" to cinema

“El Filibusterismo” is the second novel written by José Rizal, whom my people, the Filipinos, commend as their greatest hero. But along with his first novel “Noli Me Tangere”, “El Fili” contains scenes that are normally offensive to the Catholic faith, such as negative portrayal of the clergy (although the character Padre Florentino, a native priest, is one of the good guys) and suicide (both by Juli and Simoun).

Since 1956, the two novels are required reading in high school (“Noli” in 3rd Year, “El Fili” in 4th Year) and are topics that are part of the Rizal course in college, all because of Republic Act 1425.

In the early 1960s, National Artist Gerardo de Leon made film adaptations of the novels, both garnering FAMAS awards for Best Picture and Best Director.

Most Filipinos nowadays prefer Hollywood blockbusters and locally-produced romantic comedies rather than stage shows.

Suppose I want to adapt “El Filibusterismo” to mainstream cinema once again. Here are the obstacles I must face:
*]Negative portrayal of the Catholic Church = several friars are treated as enemy characters, and one of them has the name of an Italian criminal organization. I would afford to have their counterparts in my project as lay people; otherwise, I would be excommunicated as per Canon Law. In my country, excommunication is a big deal for me because I would be declared “persona non grata” the same way as Dr. Hayden Kho.
*]The setting = period films in the Philippines are hard to produce these days. Some of the colonial-era buildings around Luzon were replaced by newer-looking ones after World War II. Since “El Fili” is set in the future (by Rizal’s time), I can afford to make an Ultimate Marvel-esque extension of Rizal’s fictional universe to not worry about procuring antiques and to revamp the backstories of Rizal’s characters to fit with present-day situations.

What would be your advice if I would not risk being excommunicated and/or “boycotted” by the local film industry?

I cannot address the issues of Filipino culture. But, from the standpoint of Canon Law (which is the same for you as it is for me), there is no provision to excommunicate someone simply because he produced a film with Catholic clergy who were sinful or “bad guys.”

This would assume that the film is not simply a pretext to “slam” the Church, or an effort to portray ALL clergy as sinful bad guys. From the description you provided, there would be no grounds for excommunication.

You mention a priest whose name is that of criminal organization. Is this a coincidence, or is it a plot device? If the name is not relevant to the plot, perhaps Father Mafia (or whatever) could be named Father Manila (or whatever).

No grounds for excommunication, yes. But the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines can boycott my project just like what was done to “The Da Vinci Code.”

Padre Camorra (basically similar to Padre Damaso from the “Noli”), a major antagonist. He attempted to rape Juli, causing her to jump from the 2nd floor of her convent to her death. I’m not sure about Rizal’s naming of that character, as most Filipinos in his time do not yet know what “Camorra” is.

In the case of Dan Brown’s book he wrote it because he hates Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular.
Rizal was not against the Church but against the corrupt priests.

Along with what thistle stated, it’s actually an offense to both Filipino culture and Filipino Catholic identity to compare the two. Dan Brown’s book can’t even be considered historical. His tripe is purely fictional and while it conducts a serious attack on core doctrine (the divinity of Christ), Rizal’s work are indeed an attack only on corrupt clergy and nothing more.

Furthermore, Dan Brown based his tall tale on farfetched lies and Gnostic propaganda. Sad to say, Rizal’s clerical antagonists did have a fair representation in actual Filipino history. Damasos, Camorras, and Sybilas were quite notorious during Spain’s rule here and if anything, our national hero did the Church a service in exposing these wolves in shepherd’s clothing.

Well, Rizal did have a favorable view of the Jesuits, but what of his supposed retraction, which stated that his two novels were just “a big waste” in his entire life, because he wrote those when he was a Freemason?

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