El Crimen Del Padre Amaro - due to get the widest release ever for a Mexican film, on 300 prints - is provoking controversy ahead of its scheduled local release on August 16th. A Catholic group has launched a website inviting people to petition for the ban of Carlos Carrera's film

Adapted from the 1875 novel by Portuguese author Jose Maria Eca de Queiroz, the story labelled as 'anticlerical' by the catholic group centres on a scandal about a priest, played by Gael Garcia Bernal (Amores Perros), who has an affair with a young woman who then has an abortion.

"It's surprising how some people are raising such a fuss even without seeing the film," said producer Daniel Birman Ripstein of Alameda Films. The publicity, albeit negative, could translate into massive rewards at the box office. Columbia TriStar Mexico will distribute the $1.9m drama on an initial 300 screens, an unprecedented number for a Mexican film. El Crimen will be making the rounds of international festivals in the coming months.

El Crimen Del Padre Amaro was produced by Alameda Films in association with Wanda Vision (Spain), Art Cam (France), Cinecolor (Argentina), Blu Films (Mex), Imcine and the Vera Cruz state of Mexico. Alfredo Ripstein and Daniel Birman, the father and nephew of Mexican director Arturo Ripstein respectively, served as producers. Bernal, who is set to play Che Guevara in Walter Salles' Motorcycle Diaries, leads a Mexican cast which includes Ana Claudia Talancon (who plays the woman), Damien Alcazar and Angelica Aragon and Spanish actor Sancho Gracia.