Right hot from the Cannes 2018 premiere, Wim Wenders’ POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD arrives in Toronto. Watching the film in the comfort of Toronto without the hassle of going to a too-busy film festival at Cannes is my personal preference.
German director of fictional films and documentaries, Wenders has made docs like THE BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB, PINA and SALT OF THE EARTH that are most remembered. As in all his films, Wenders films are beautifully shot.
It should be noted that POPE FRANCIS: A MAN OF HIS WORD is not a biography of Pope Francis. Nothing is mentioned of his background (except that he came from South America), his education, learning, childhood or family. Instead, as Wenders must have been given Carte Blanche access to the pontiff’s interviews and journeys, the audience is given the freedom and opportunity to make up their minds for themselves with regards to his aspirations from the footage seen on screen. At times, Wenders allows Pope Francis to deliver almost an entire sermon on film, thus forcing the audience to feel exactly how his Catholic congregation would have felt in a church. The camera also lingers on the congregation from the little poor people to the congressmen – and how they are mightily moved by his sincere words. The Pope is shown not to be a great orator, but one who carefully chooses his words. His sincerity and speech content make the difference.
Unlike other Popes in the past who are almost too frail to make an appearance or travel around the world to inspire, Pope Francis is clearly aware of the current world affairs. His commitment to saving the Planet Earth is observed in many instances. He travels to the Earth Conferences around the world and speaks some powerful words. “The poorest of the poorest is Mother Earth,” he preaches in one of the film’s most moving segments. “She has been plundered. She has been abused.” On other matters such as homosexuality, he is unfortunately, less firm. He gives an ambiguous reply saying that: “if a gay man does no wrong, who is he to judge?”
Among the Pope’s trips, the audience gets to see a Pope’s eye view of a Brazilian street mass, a Central African Republic children’s hospital, a Philadelphia prison, a Greek migrant camp, the UN, a joint session of Congress and a Jerusalem Holocaust remembrance ceremony. The most moving of these is the segment of the Greek migrant camp, whee he goes about kissing individuals as they reach out to touch him in response.
Wenders’ doc POPE FRANCIS proves that more can be learnt about the Pope by following the person during his meetings, speeches and journeys than from his background or interviews of his friends and family. In this doc, one cannot help but admire Pope Francis not only as a Pope who has inspirational ideas but one that is intent to make a difference in the world from his holy position.