The Controversy of Valladolid (TV movie)

The Controversy of Valladolid (1992) is a TV movie directed by Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe , which is a fictionalized narrative of the real Controversy of Valladolid.


At the xvi th century , sixty years after the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus , and reign over the Spanish Charles V convenes a meeting under the papal legate , to discuss the fundamental question of the Indian natives, whose she colonized the territories in America , do they have a soul (are they men)? The answer must stem from the cessation or otherwise of the slavery of which they are the victims.

The controversy will confront the conservative point of view [ref. necessary] of canon Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda and the humanist [ref. necessary] of the Dominican Bartolomé de Las Casas . One of the great interest of the film is to show how men a priori honest and sincere can come to a conclusion that seems, at the alleged moral elevation of the xx th century , perfectly abject. The verdict mixes weak conscience of the xvi th century and the economic issues. The Church will accept the accession of Indians to the status of human being, but the outcome of this controversy in the form of a trial will be marked by a coup that will have consequences on millions of men: it will legitimize the slavery of blacks.

Telefilm and the historical reality

The author of the novel on which this TV movie is based specifies in preliminary note that the book is a romanticized interpretation of historical facts. In fact, if Las Casas and Sepulveda have largely exchanged on the question, we do not know if they actually met. In any case the debate was essentially epistolary. Above all, the debate did not focus on the humanity of the Indians (this had already been decided by Pope Paul III ), but on the mode of evangelization that was necessary to put in place.

The humanity of the Indians, the existence of their soul, therefore, has never been the object of debate, since otherwise Sepúlveda would never have spoken of the task of evangelizing them and would never have so much “Sin of idolatry”. Las Casas like Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda agreed on the duty of conversion of the Indians which falls to the Spaniards but differ on the way to achieve it: peaceful colonization and exemplary life for the first and institutional colonization where the force is legitimized by the realism and the very nature of pre-Columbian civilizations, for the second.

Technical sheet

  • Original title: The Controversy of Valladolid
  • Director: Jean-Daniel Verhaeghe
  • Scenario: Jean-Claude Carrière
  • Production: Iris Carrière , Céline Baruch , Albert Roguenant
  • Production Companies: Bakti Productions , FR3 Marseille , La Sept , Belgian Francophone Radio Television ( RTBF )
  • Country of origin: France
  • Format: Color , TV
  • Language: French
  • Genre: drama , historical
  • Duration: 90 minutes
  • Broadcasting date :
    •  France :on FR3
    •  Norway :


  • Jean-Pierre Marielle : Bartolome of Las Casas
  • Jean-Louis Trintignant : Juan Gines of Sepulveda
  • Jean Carmet : Cardinal Roncieri, Pope’s Legate
  • Jean-Michel Dupuis : the colonist
  • Claude Laugier : Brother Gregorio
  • Franck Laigneau : The young monk with a clapper
  • Michel Charrel : The second settler
  • Dominique Noé : An assessor of the legate
  • Jean Nehr : Assistant of Las Casas
  • Didier Bourguignon : The scribe
  • Mogan Mehlem : Representative of the King
  • Raymond Aulme : A Dominican
  • Jean-Paul Egalon : The soldier
  • Emmanuel-Georges Delajoie : The African worker
  • Jean-Luc Orofino : Jester “The King”
  • Salim Talbi : Jester “The Queen”


  • 7 d’or 1993 : Best TV movie, best director, best screenwriter, best actor (Jean-Pierre Marielle).

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