Un­con­ven­tional doc a touch­ing por­trait of Pope Fran­cis, cham­pion of the poor

Montreal Gazette - - MOVIES - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com @chrisknight­film

In the 13th cen­tury, Gio­vanni di Pi­etro di Bernar­done be­came Fran­cis of As­sisi, founder of the Fran­cis­can or­der, ad­vo­cate of broth­erly love, and de­voted to a life of poverty. Eight hun­dred years later, Jorge Mario Ber­goglio of Ar­gentina be­came the Pope and chose the name Fran­cis.

The saint and the Pon­tiff come to­gether in Pope Fran­cis: A Man of His Word. This new doc­u­men­tary from Wim Wen­ders (Pina, Buena Vista So­cial Club) makes no at­tempt to hide its re­spect for a man who is do­ing all he can to pull the be­he­moth that is the Catholic Church fully into the 21st cen­tury, while em­brac­ing the sim­plis­tic styles of his name­sake.

“We must all con­sider if we can be­come a lit­tle poorer,” Fran­cis says of this ma­te­ri­al­is­tic age.

This is not a biog­ra­phy in the

tra­di­tional sense — there’s al­most no men­tion of what the 81-yearold was do­ing be­fore be­ing elected in 2013. In­stead, we see the Pon­tiff trav­el­ling the world — of­ten rid­ing in a squat Fiat in­stead of a huge limo — dis­pens­ing his mes­sage of love to be­liev­ers and non-be­liev­ers alike.

Athe­ists may quib­ble with his state­ment that God loves us all (who is this God per­son any­way?), but he also notes that free will makes us fully ca­pa­ble of choos­ing not to re­turn the feel­ing. Also, he calls the Biblical cre­ation tale “a myth­i­cal form” of sto­ry­telling. And he re­veals that as a priest he would some­times shock parish­ioners in con­fes­sion by in­ter­rupt­ing them to in­quire: “Do you play with your kids?” The an­swer, he be­lieves, is more im­por­tant than many a petty sin.

Wen­ders, who spent eight hours in one-on-one interviews with Fran­cis, of­ten al­lows the Pope to ad­dress the cam­era di­rectly, as though speak­ing to view­ers. It’s an oddly mov­ing tech­nique. And just as the di­rec­tor isn’t in­ter­ested in the Pope’s early life, nei­ther is he go­ing to ex­ca­vate the evils that have been done and con­tinue to be done in the church’s name. This is a snap­shot of one man mak­ing the best of the job he’s been given. The church needs more like him.


Pope Fran­cis: A Man of His Word is a close look at the spir­i­tual leader, whose em­pa­thy for the poor and dis­en­fran­chised sets him apart from many cur­rent world lead­ers.

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