They say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and a recent group of protesters have proven this age-old adage to be true when they picketed the New York Film Festival Premiere of Benedetta earlier this week, describing it as a “blasphemous lesbian movie”.

Benedetta, is the work of director Paul Verhoeven and is based on the book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith Brown. It tells the true story of a 17th-century nun named Benedetta Carlini who had a sexual relationship with a fellow nun.

While the film explores a “forbidden lesbian affair”, it is Benedetta’s scandalous religious visions that seem to have upset some Catholic groups.

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The group of protestors were from the American Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property, who according to its website are focused on addressing the “moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilization.”

Film Festival Trolls Protestors

In footage of the protestors outside New York’s Alice Tully Hall, which has since gone viral, they can be seen chanting Hail Marys into megaphones while holding banners. One banner read “We vehemently protest the blasphemous lesbian movie Benedetta, that insults the sanctity of Catholic nuns.”

“Why the endless insults to Jesus?” asks another banner, while a third urged cinemagoers to “Stop blasphemy now!”

But, according  Indie Wire at least, the protestors fears of a “moral crisis shaking the remnants of Christian civilisation” wasn’t enough to prevent them from watching the Benedetta.

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Inside the theatre before the premiere began, New York Film Festival programmer Dennis Lim asked the audience “How many Catholics are with us?” to which a third of the audience raised their hands.

Not one’s to miss a moment, the New York Film Festival were quick to jump on the controversy, retweeting footage of the protesters to spruik the film’s remaining sessions.

Australia Will Have To Wait For ‘Blasphemous Lesbian Movie’

Verhoeven, who is known for his signature blend of graphic violence, sexual content and social satire, told media at Cannes Film Festival that he felt no shame towards the film. His previous credits include Showgirls, Basic Instinct and Elle.

 “I don’t understand really how you can be blasphemous about something that happened,” Verhoeven explained. “Even if it’s in 1625, it’s true, mostly. Of course, we changed a little bit.”

Twenty two years ago, the film Dogma starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as fallen angels, received a similar reception. Upon its release, it was likewise protested by American Society for the Defence of Tradition, Family and Property, who similarly claimed that their anger was based on blasphemous grounds.

Australian audiences will have to wait until February 2022 to catch Benedetta in cinemas. Regardless, thanks to the protestors Benedetta has now been reported on by a number of international news outlets, with many wet with anticipation of checking out this “blasphemous lesbian movie” for themselves.

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