Pope Francis: A Man of His Word received a quiet release in theatres across Canada and the U.S., very much in keeping with the film’s overall message. It is an understated and simply structured documentary about Pope Francis. And what might have been a movie filled with speeches and papal travel footage is much more.
When award-winning director Wim Wenders was approached to make the film, the filmmaker requested carte blanche from the Vatican if he were to accept the challenge. The Vatican agreed. The movie reflects Wenders’s discovery that the pontiff is indeed gentle and humble, serving in the Catholic Church’s most prominent role.
The pope is the only pontiff to take the name of the twelfth-century ascetic, St. Francis of Assisi. Furthermore he is the first Jesuit to be afforded this highest of positions, a group known for vows of simple living.
From the outset the viewer cannot help but feel connected to intimate conversations with Pope Francis. He seems as genuine as if he was sitting at your kitchen table, making eye contact all the while. Wenders weaves together the narrative using these close-up interviews, clips of papal appearances with world leaders and at multi-faith gatherings, and footage of the pope meeting with the public.
Interspersed through the film are what seem to be classic black-and-white clips providing the parallel narrative of the pope’s namesake. Wenders in fact crafted these scenes, engaging actors on a contemporary set but using a 1920’s camera for the convincing effect.
Wenders keeps the movie spare in keeping with a man who chooses the simpler way of life. And the message of Pope Francis is indeed a simpler way. He speaks earnestly and with urgency about divisions, about our care for this planet, about poverty, and about gender as it relates to women in leadership as well as sexual orientation, all framed within the great commandments as given by Jesus. We see him stooping to wash the feet of the incarcerated, to touch the weak bodies of the sick, and to tenderly bless the children, the elderly, and the despondent.
Pope Francis ends with two final suggestions for shaping one’s day: have a smile and have a sense of humor. Throughout the movie his smile is inviting and his humor most evident.
No matter your faith or denominational home, this movie will give you a window into a leader whose desire is to draw all peoples to the heart of the gospel. (Focus)