This year, when we celebrate the centenary of those miraculous events that took place at Fatima, Portugal in 1917, a lot of documentaries, films, archive footage are brought to light. Costele's film, definitely, should not be skipped for several reasons that make it a truly outstanding cinematic work.
Firstly, it is the only film that develops the 1916 apparitions of the Angel of Peace who appeared to children, Lucia, and now saints Jacinta and Francisco and prepared them for later apparitions of Our Lady by teaching them a significant prayer. This prayer was deeply rooted in the spirit of sacrifices that they more and more willingly undertook for sinners and their conversion. The scenes with the Angel are the great plus of the movie because 13th May 1917 when Madonna appeared to children was another 'step' in the process of their spiritual and mystical experience.
Secondly, Costele's film places the story in the very political context of the Portugal of these years, turbulent years indeed. The anti-clerical government begun by Alfonso Costa with the rise of the Republic in 1910 and the bastion of their media, the newspaper 'O Seculo' (which, paradoxically, promoted the events at Fatima through their mockery) is embodied by the mayor of Vila Nova de Ourem (a municipality superior to Aljustrel and Fatima) Arturo de Oliveira Santos. He arrests the children in the cells of prison at Ourem and demands of them to reveal the secret that the Lady placed upon them. Here is a nice contrast between the earthly powers of freemasonry and totalitarisms and the powers of heaven: frightening vs. love. He frightens them, that is his only weapon while Our Lady says: "Do not be afraid'
It is also a crucial aspect for all those that considered Fatima events as some doomed, gloomy prophecy, a secret of total destruction that was meant to scare the world, place it in fear. On the contrary, it is a message of God's Love, of peace that may be achieved through prayer, penance and sacrifice.
Although Fabrizio Costa's movie of 1997 also develops this aspect of Portuguese history, it goes quite far to the more fictitious plots and events. That is not bad, though, it might miss the point sometimes.
Thirdly, the film does justice to the depiction of children's families. Olimpia and Manuel Marto, the parents of Jacinta and Francisco, perhaps do not have so many doubts as Lucia's mother Maria Rosa. Yet, in both families, there is that pure modesty, that feeling that "We are not worthy. How is that possible?" Yes, God chooses those 'little ones' to entrust them those 'great things.' In that respect, I would like to call your attention to two scenes: Lucia's mother visiting the parish priest and Lucia's father praying the Rosary with her at Cova da Iria. Two different attitudes, yet deeply rooted in faith.
Finally, the film was most welcome by two greatest Fatima witnesses of the 20th century: saint John Paul II and Servant of God Sister Lucia. They both saw the film and the children who play Jacinta, Francisco and Lucia were with John Paul II at Fatima altar in 1991 in exactly the same dresses as the seers of Fatima were once wearing.
"Do not offend God any longer, pray Rosary each day" that is the Message of the Beautiful Lady that 100 years ago appeared in this little village, Fatima. That is the remedy for world's suffering, that is the way of permanent peace. The saint Pastorinhos and their "Ave Maria" echoes from there to the whole world.