Aleteia

Director Wim Wenders to have direct access to Pope Francis for new documentary

POPE FRANCIS
Antoine Mekary | Aleteia
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Three-time Academy Award nominee (‘Buena Vista Social Club’) to write and direct this look at the pope’s ideas in ‘Pope Francis — A Man of His Word.’

During Donald Trump’s highly publicized meeting with Pope Francis, the pontiff gave the president a medallion with an olive branch, a symbol of peace. To drive the point home, he also gave him a signed copy of his 2017 peace message, “Nonviolence – A Style of Politics for Peace,” as well as copies of three key documents of his pontificate: Evangelii Gaudium (“On the proclamation of the Gospel in today’s world”), Laudato Si’ (“On care for our common home”), and Amoris Laetitia (“On love in the family”). “I will be reading them,” Trump promised – and just as he left, offered these parting words about their conversation: “I won’t forget what you said.”

While news of this brief exchange of ideas made headlines, Focus Features – the studio behind arthouse favorites like The Pianist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and A Serious Manannounced that it has acquired an upcoming documentary all about those ideas.

Pope Francis – A Man of His Word, written and directed by three-time Academy Award nominee Wim Wenders (Buena Vista Social Club), will look at the environment, immigration, consumerism, and social justice through Francis’ perspective. The press release describes the film as “not a biography about the Pope, rather a film with him.” It will show Francis responding to questions “submitted from around the globe” and sharing “his ideas and ideals in different parts of the world.” (The announcement came at the Cannes Film Festival, where the pope also happens to be making his big-screen debut in Beyond the Sun, a “family adventure” about children searching for Jesus in different cultures. Francis, who had asked the filmmakers to make a children’s movie that “communicates Jesus’ message,” makes a cameo as himself.)

No release date was announced, but Focus Features is already calling its documentary significant and even historic, as it’s only the second co-production between the Vatican and outside filmmakers and the first with direct access to the pope. But looking back at Francis’ years as the Bishop of Rome, it hardly comes as a surprise. From posing for selfies, to building on Benedict XVI’s entry into Twitter with the “@Pontifex” handle (he has almost 11 million followers), to delivering the first ever papal TED talk, Francis has consistently looked to the tech and media industries to communicate to the world, even while warning about the dangers of a new “technocratic paradigm” in his writings. That approach has only amplified the pope’s inspiring message of mercy and compassion – and as the director points out, it’s a message that clearly doesn’t end with words.

“Pope Francis is a living example of a man who stands for what he says,” Wenders explains. “Through the full cooperation of the Vatican, we were privileged to have several long audiences with Pope Francis, and Focus now joins us in bringing his radical compassion and deep humanism to an audience around the globe.” Peter Kujawski, chairman of Focus Features, echoes that sentiment. “We are humbled at the responsibility of planting this film into the global culture so that the thoughts and words of a spiritual leader as inspiring and compassionate as Pope Francis can take root.”

Here’s hoping they do.

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