The Holy Office, directed by Arturo Ripstein, is set at the end of the sixteenth century in Mexico City. During the burial of the father of the Carbajal family, the eldest son, Friar Gaspar, notices that some of the outlawed Jewish rites are used. He tells his confessor, and on his aovice, denounces his family to the Inquisition. The country has suffered an outbreak of plague, and many people blame the disease on the Jews who had arrived in the New World after being expelled from Spain.
The inquisition takes the Carbajal family into custody, and the mother, Francisca. confesses under torture to their Jewish belief. Meanwhile Luis, her son, persuades the priest who has been put in his cell to spy on him, to abandon his Catholic faith in favour of Judaism. Mariana, the youngest daughter, becomes insane after she has been raped by the guards. Eventually, the entire family abjure their faith and are granted conditional freedom. Luis is ordered to adopt the sambenito habit and work in an asylum. He falls in love with a beautiful girl, Justa Mendez, and tells her that she will give birth to • the Messiah who will save them all. At the same time, he continues his proselytising by attempting to convert a dying man to Judaism. But he recovers, accuses Luis, who is tortured by the Inquisition, and denounces the Jewish community. Many of them are condemned to die at the stake, but a few survivors continue with their secret rites.