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Film Review: Pope Francis – A Man of His Word

BY RUBI DEL RÍO-HERRERA

Director Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire [1987]) makes a tough task look easy in his new documentary Pope Francis: A Man of His Word. The task is no less than capturing the essence of a man.

Wenders’ wisest choice here is breaking the fourth wall, a technique that allows the individual in front of the lens (the subject) to look directly into the camera and address the viewer. This is exactly what happens when Wenders interviews Pope Francis. The effect draws the viewer into the story and makes one feel as if the Pope is directly talking to you. It is an ingenious method for certain documentaries, as it touches each viewer personally and allows them to be absorbed by the story. In this case, you also draw near to the words and messages of a man who speaks with candor, love, and truth.

One has to wonder, What is Wenders’ objective? Is it the man behind the robe? As we watch, we begin to understand that this film is not just about Pope Francis’ life. It only glimpses his past through archival footage, that of the man previously known as Jorge Bergoglio, an Argentine Jesuit. Instead, Wenders concentrates on the present and the papacy.

Pope Francis’ papacy begins at the retirement of the last pope in 2013, and the film opens recounting the life of St. Francis of Assisi in a shot of the Umbrian village of Assisi. The birthplace of the patron saint of the poor and sick. This is the man after whom Pope Francis was named and, more importantly, the saint who he has devoted his life to following.

This is evident in Pope Francis’ vows, rejecting the offerings of the papacy. We also see that his home is less extravagant than the official papal residence in the Apostolic Palace. He travels in a small electric car to meet heads of states. So, the film focuses on Pope Francis’ humbleness, compassion and, most of all his love for mankind, in keeping with the lifework of St. Francis.

Wenders does occasionally turn his lens toward subjects the Catholic Church for years has not wanted advertised, such as its positions on homosexuality, its plague of sexual abuse spread by priests, and the cover-ups thereof. Pope Francis’ answers to difficult questions reveal a man who is empathetic to each cause differently. He issues no criticism on homosexuality by answering, “Who am I to judge?” He feels that the Church needs to repair the wrongdoings of sexual abuse, and shows support of civil proceedings against defendants formerly of the Church.

In truth, Pope Francis is the pope of the people. He is just a man who recognizes that he has been given a gift to share with all who will accept and listen to his message of love. Wenders’ film will make you feel good about yourself. Leave you to feel warm and accepting of what it means to be an individual.

3 of 5 stars

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