“Blasphemous” Lesbian Nun Movie Protested by Catholics

Protesters showed up during the September 26 screening of the film Benedetta at the Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, where the 59th New York Film Festival premiered the film. Armed with megaphones, banners, and placards, members of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property branded Benedetta as a “blasphemous lesbian movie.”

“They’re repeatedly saying Hail Marys into megaphones,” said Christian Blauvelt, Managing Editor of IndieWire. Other groups of protesters were also present. Another Catholic group America Needs Fatima, a campaign group advocating for the Lady of Fatima, was seen playing drums and bagpipes. “They are upset about its ‘blasphemous’ portrayal of nuns and Catholicism,” Blauvelt added.

Some members of the Catholic community are very active when it comes to protesting movies that they think are attacking their tradition. The 1999 fantasy film, Dogma by Kevin Smith received sharp criticism from Catholics, including the same group of protesters who called the film a mockery of their religious beliefs.

Like the last time Catholics and other religious groups protested any controversial films, the filmmakers and most film enthusiasts see it as an added publicity. One Twitter user said, “If I were on the Benedetta PR/distribution team, I’d immediately release a poster with a blasphemous lesbian movie.”

A true-story film, Benedetta is directed by Paul Verhoeven, a dutch director and screenwriter. Verhoeven’s films included the 1987 RoboCop, Hollowman, and other entries to the NYFF, including Elle. His latest film reveals the life of the 17th-century Tuscanny nun, Benedetta Carlini, who claimed visions of Christ and had sexual relations with another nun. The New York Film festival calls it a “delirious, erotic, and violent melodrama, told with a boundless spirit for scandal, and unabashedly courts blasphemy as it unfolds its tale of religious hypocrisy.”

Dennis Lim, the Director of Programming of the New York Film Festival, asked the audience before the screening started. “How many Catholics are with us?” he asked, adding that “Verhoeven doesn’t provoke without a purpose.”

Verhoeven said it’s not his intention to provoke, during an interview with The Hollywood Reporter earlier this year. “The images just come to my mind. If I’m interested in seeing them, the audience will be too,” he added.

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