Catholic protesters descended on Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center for the New York Film Festival premiere of Paul Verhoeven’s scandalous lesbian nun drama “Benedetta.” The movie, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to shock and acclaim, stars Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, a novice nun in the 17th century who joins an Italian convent and has a lesbian love affair with another nun.
IFC Films, which opens the “Basic Instinct” and “Elle” director’s latest on December 3 stateside, confirmed to IndieWire that the protest was, indeed, not a publicity stunt. Festival attendees shared news and photos of the protest on Twitter (see below).
“They are upset about its ‘blasphemous’ portrayal of nuns and Catholicism. They’re repeatedly saying Hail Marys into megaphones,” said IndieWire’s Managing Editor Christian Blauvelt. Protesters, some of whom were seen playing drums and bagpipes, appear to be part of a group called America Needs Fatima. This appears to be the first major Catholic protest of a New York Film Festival movie since Kevin Smith’s 1999 “Dogma.”
Inside the theater before the premiere began, New York Film Festival programmer Dennis Lim asked the audience “How many Catholics are with us?” About a third of the audience raised their hands.
Lim then thanked the Catholic League for protesting outside, adding that “Verhoeven doesn’t provoke without a purpose.”
While neither the filmmaker nor any onscreen talent was present, the screening was attended by screenwriter David Birke. He co-wrote the film with Verhoeven, and said that he’s willing to go through the screenplay line by line to show why the film is “not my fault,” which is to say that history backs the story.
Christian Blauvelt contributed reporting.
Walked past this group of ~20 protestors to get to my 3:00pm screening at Alice Tully Hall. The movie? BENEDETTA. And they are upset about its “blasphemous” portrayal of nuns and Catholicism. They’re repeatedly saying Hail Mary’s into megaphones. Good publicity for the movie! pic.twitter.com/BPpf7Rjblu
— Christian Blauvelt (@ctblauvelt) September 26, 2021
— Tomris Laffly (@TomiLaffly) September 26, 2021
— 59th New York Film Festival (@TheNYFF) September 26, 2021
— Inglorious Baguettes🖤 (@morebaguettes) September 26, 2021