Pope Fran­cis: A Man of His Word

National Post (National Edition) - - POST MOVIES - Chris Knight

Pope Fran­cis: A Man of His Word

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 first of 266 Popes to do so.

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 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 is al­most no men­tion of what the 81-year-old 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 non­be­liev­ers 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 ef­fec­tive and oddly mov­ing tech­nique. And just as the di­rec­tor isn’t in­ter­ested in the Pope’s early life, nei­ther is he go­ing to ex­ca­vate the many 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 opens May 18 in Toronto, Water­loo, Ottawa, Mon­treal, Que­bec City, Cal­gary, Ed­mon­ton and Van­cou­ver.

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