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Film about Gomburza in the works

JESUIT Communications (JesCom), the media arm of the Philippine province of the Society of Jesus, is developing a new feature film based on the lives of the three martyred priests who are known to most Filipinos by the collective name Gomburza (or GomBurZa).

The Catholic priests Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora were executed via garrote by Spanish authorities on Feb. 17, 1872. The three — who all advocated for the rights of native-born priests — were falsely accused of instigating a mutiny in Cavite.

The film is JesCom’s second following 2016’s Ignacio de Loyola, a biopic on the founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The new film is JesCom’s contribution to the celebration of the Filipino Catholic Church’s quincentenary in 2021.

JesCom Executive Director Fr. Emmanuel Alfonso, SJ said that their goal is to share the truth behind the historical event and about the involvement of the church in politics at the time.

“We were inspired by the statement of our [Filipino Jesuit historian and educator] Fr. Jack N. Schumacher, that the church, especially these events of the Gomburza, was a trigger point for the emergence of the Filipino nation,” Mr. Alfonso said at an online press conference on Feb. 18.

“In this time of great political turmoil, we would like to give inspiration. From our faith, we can draw courage and a sense of involvement in the life of our nation,” he added.

Gomez, Burgos and Zamora were falsely accused of being the masterminds behind the Cavite Mutiny, a short-lived uprising among troops and workers in an arsenal over the removal of certain privileges they had enjoyed. The Spanish governor of the time used the mutiny as an excuse to clamp down on other Filipinos seeking reforms, including Filipino priests involved in the secularization movement which infuriated Spanish friars.

The death of the three priests was a spark for what would eventually become a revolution. National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal dedicated his second novel, El Filibusterismo, to the memory of Gomburza.

GomBurZa will be directed by Pepe Diokno, who won the 2009 Venice International Film Festival Orrizonti Prize winner for his debut feature film Engkwentro. The screenplay for GomBurZa is by playwright, theater actor, and director Rody Vera. Cinematography will be by Carlo Mendoza, and production design by Ericson Navarro.

Mr. Vera said that he wrote the script based on his interpretations of Fr. Schumacher’s books.

“I had to understand the story on my own and I have to piece them all together and find connections,” Mr. Vera said. “Hindi sila pare-pareho ng pag-interpret or pagtanggap ng sa kamatayang kinakaharap nila (They did not share the same view or accept the death they were about to face),” he said of the three priests.

Mr. Vera pointed out that he wanted to show the three priests as ordinary people with distinct personalities, hobbies, and their relationships with friends and family.

The story spans nearly a decade, from 1863 to 1872, and will also highlight the impact of the three priests’ death on the country’s political history.

“With this project, we really hope to present a different perspective for today’s audiences. Many Filipinos know the three priests for their death and, unfortunately, maybe only for the death. With our film, we hope to present their life and legacy, what they lived for, what they fought for, and how that became the seeds of a revolution,” the film’s director, Mr. Diokno, said.

Casting is ongoing and production is targeted to begin in July. The release date is yet to be announced.

For details and updates about GomBurza, visit the Jesuit Communications Facebook page or visit jescom.ph. Michelle Anne P. Soliman