Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
"Gospa" begins with the story of the reported appearances of the Virgin Mary in the Croatian hillside village of Medjugorje - where, since six children first said they saw her in 1981, more than 20 million pilgrims have visited. The movie quickly turns away, however, from the spiritual side of the story, to focus on the efforts of the Yugoslavian communist regime to discourage the pilgrimages and punish a priest held responsible for them.
The priest, a Franciscan named Jozo Zovko (Martin Sheen) was accused of being "Croatian nationalist, fascist, anti-government and anti-communist," and tortured and imprisoned. More than 600 Croatian priests, we are told at the end, were killed by Tito's regime in its attempt to stifle religion. The movie's depiction of Zovko's treatment is stark and effective.
Watching the film, I was reminded of an ancient journalism legend about the reporter who covered a Southern flood in the 1920s.
"God stood on a mountain here today," he wrote, "and saw what his waters had wrought." His editor cabled him: "Forget flood. Interview God." That was my reaction while watching "Gospa." As a journalist, my feeling is, if the Virgin Mary appears - that's the story. But the movie treats her appearances in a somewhat perfunctory manner; we don't see her, which is fair enough, but we see blue skies, white clouds and glowing faces of children, and on the soundtrack, we hear wind chimes. We are vaguely told that Mary has asked the faithful to pray for peace and to fast.