Agora, directed by Alejandro Amenabar, opened in Spain on October 9, 2009, becoming the highest grossing film for the year in that country, grossing over $32 million in the first three months post-release. Featuring Academy Award winning actress Rachel Weisz, The movie featured at the Cannes Film Festival, and won a Best Original Screenplay in Spain. With the ingredients and the feel of a big budget blockbuster, why has the film been limited to just a few indie outlet screenings within the U.S?
Significantly, Agora found success in these small urban cinemas, and according to Rentrak, which tracks movie ticket data in North America, recording the highest per-theatre-average of any film in the marketplace during the Memorial Holiday weekend this year. Yet no major U.S Distributor believes it to be a worthy punt for wider cinematic release. We must ourselves why? Either the movie is of poor substance, or it’s the substance that causes concern. Judging by the film’s success elsewhere, we can presume the latter.
Set in Alexandria, Egypt during the fourth century (391 A.D) Weisz plays the role of Hypatia, a female mathematician, philosopher and astronomer who investigates the flaws of the geocentric Ptolemaic system and the heliocentric model that challenges it. In lay terms, does the sun revolve around the earth, or the other way around? In the background, the gradual collapse of the Roman Empire, and the violent uprising of Christianity within pagan centers.
Central to the plot is Hypatia’s efforts to preserve the city’s library, a library that Christians seek to destroy because they believe science interferes with the worship of Jesus. Whilst much of the drama is a fictionalized, this narrative is historically correct. In fact, historians refer to the destruction of the Alexandrian library as the end of the first period of enlightenment and the commencement of the Dark Ages.
In the years leading to the period of the film’s setting, the Roman Empire was beginning to implode upon itself; the cracks in the wallpaper were evident to the intellectual elite and to the Roman Emperor Constantine. The empire stretched to the most northern parts of Europe, to the edge of Asia, and down into the African continent. With so many varying societies and cultures under his control, with a myriad of respective religions and gods, Constantine believed a one-god religion could bring stability and unity to all his nations. However, in the shopping aisle of one-god religions, there was only Judaism or Christianity. He chose the latter because the Romans believed the Jewish beliefs to be barbaric and outdated.
In signing the Edict of Milan in 322 A.D, Constantine gave legitimacy to Christianity, a religion whose followers totaled less than 40,000, representing less than 1% of the Jewish population at that time. Mass conversions began. Christianity, unlike paganism and Judaism, is a proselytizing faith, and Agora illustrates the ugly, brutal, and politically motivated origins of America’s favorite religion.
The film leaves you asking many questions i.e. how many centuries earlier would we have discovered the germ theory of disease, thus preventing the premature deaths of billions of people, had Christianity not been forced upon mankind in such a belligerent fashion, as it was in 391 A.D?
Author ‘God Hates You. Hate Him Back’ (Making Sense of the Bible)