'The Last Summit' (unrated)

According to La última cima (The Last Summit), Catholic priests are in dire need of an image makeover. At the start of the film, director Juan Manuel Cotelo wonders why we hear so many negative stories about priests and never any positive ones. Then he breaks out man-on-the-street interviews shot in Madrid, where people express a wide spectrum of opinion, calling them everything from creepy and opportunistic to underappreciated and stereotyped.

Instead of casting an impossibly wide net to make his argument that Priests Are People Too, Cotelo focuses on the life of one man of the cloth: Pablo Dominguez, a beloved 42-year old Spanish priest who died during a mountain climbing expedition. Using snazzy graphics, energetic editing and a predominantly light, whimsical tone, the filmmaker interviews the friends and followers who knew Dominguez well. The portrait that emerges is one of a kind, generous, big-hearted man who loved people, embraced life and radiated optimism wherever he went.

The Last Summit also claims that Dominguez never judged people (the film makes a big deal out of the fact that he had – gasp! – a gay friend), could talk depressed teens out of suicide and even cured an HIV-positive man. The film preaches to the converted with such blind adoration and effusive praise that it all becomes a bit much.

But every time you’re about to give up on the movie, along comes a story — such as the pregnant woman who learned her baby would be born with a fatal disease and turned to Dominguez for advice — that illustrates the importance of spirituality in people’s everyday lives, and how faith can play a role much larger than any specific belief or denomination. The Last Summit may be pure hagiography, but the film moves you regardless of your faith — or lack thereof.

Director: Juan Manuel Cotelo.

Screenwriter: Alexis Martinez.

Producers: Manuel de Cominges, Antonio Torres.

Running time: 90 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. No offensive material. Plays Thursday-Feb. 5 in Miami-Dade only: O Cinema.


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