There are some people who leave a legacy to humanity through their valor, bravery and sheer commitment to good that we should take pains never to forget. In my opinion, Oscar Romero was just such an individual. As such, I was absolutely thrilled to see that the new documentary "Monsenor" was primed to honor his memory while depicting his tumultuous last days. While I knew the journey would not be pleasant, his faith and that of his supporters during unconscionable times is something that deserves to be highlighted for a new generation. Ana Carrigan and Juliet Weber have put together an effective film that succeeds primarily through archival footage and contemporary interviews with El Salvadorans who were impacted by the country's bloody struggles prior to Romero's death in 1980. In many ways, it stands as a vital historical document for this reason alone. However, due to its specific focus, the material is best suited for those with a working knowledge of El Salvadoran history and a pre-existing knowledge of Oscar Romero.
"Monsenor: The Last Journey of Oscar Romero" doesn't spend much time putting together a big historical picture of the country's volatile political climate. Romero's back story and past achievements, as well, are given but slight mention. Instead the documentary really begins (more or less) with the appointment of Romero as Archbishop in 1977 and follows the changing landscape until his death a few years later. It is, in no way, a biography. It is, instead, a recounting and a remembrance of the carnage and uncertainty of the era. While Romero and other murdered priests aligned themselves with the general populace against oppressors, it is really the stories of the average citizens that shine through in this piece. And truthfully, that's probably how Romero would want it!
Those that have a familiarity with the subject matter should really appreciate this new viewpoint, the interviews are quite strong. I encourage anyone interested to seek further background to acquaint themselves with Romero as a man. There are a number of good books and a decent film biography (called Romero with Raul Julia) to look into. Ultimately, "Monsenor" is an important film and an easy recommendation. But, it does lack some of the context necessary to make it vital to those just starting to explore the contributions and legacy of Oscar Romero. KGHarris, 3/12.