At a time when daily scandals and bad behavior seem to dominate the headlines, taking a moment to pause and listen to the reflections of an international religious leader like Pope Francis sounds like a pretty good idea. A new documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Wim Wenders that looks at the philosophies and mission of Pope Francis was released locally on Friday.
"Pope Francis: A Man of His Word" spends little time examining the life of the current Holy Father, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina. In fact, the only real nod to his former life occurs early when we see a clip of Cardinal Bergoglio speaking to a crowd in Buenos Aires. Instead, the film focuses on the mission and guiding philosophies of the pope's pontificate, and how it was inspired by his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.
The film includes exclusive interviews with Pope Francis, as he explains how he sees the world and what we can do to change. The pope makes frequent mentions of the pace of modern life, delivered through news and social media, which can sometimes become so distracting society loses sight of what truly matters and our connection to God, Christ and each other. At one point, he calls upon the audience of the film to speak less and listen more.
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has worked to break down the deep divisions throughout the world, and "A Man of His Word" is a portrait of that. This is truly an international documentary, as cameras follow the pope traveling around the world, from South America to the Philippines, from addressing a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., to visiting a migrant farm in Italy. Everyone interviewed from the film speaks in their native tongue so the vast majority of "A Man of His Word" is subtitled, with occasional narration in English.
There is no real traditional narrative to "A Man of His Word" as the film moves from topic to topic, offering Pope Francis' insight into matters like poverty, climate change, immigration, family and more. Throughout the documentary, Wenders includes brief dramatizations of the life of St. Francis of Assisi, a 12th-century Catholic friar who devoted his life and ministry to Christ. These moments offer insight into the current pope's point of view.
In many ways, "A Man of His Word" feels like an extended, thoughtful homily on the ministry of Pope Francis. While several personal interviews with the Holy Father will give viewers much to think about, it will do little to appease his critics, even inside the Church. Early in the film, the pope is addressing his cardinals about the need to prioritize God over wealth and luxury, and some of those cardinals didn't look too happy. The film also spends little to no time on the Church's advocacy against abortion.
Regardless, "A Man of His Word" captures Pope Francis' easy charm and "Pope of the people" vibe. When asked what people can do to make the world a better place to live, the pope responds with smiles and a sense of humor, noting he prays St. Thomas More's prayer for good humor every day.
"Grant me, O Lord, good digestion, and also something to digest."
"Pope Francis: A Man of His Word" gives viewers a lot to digest.
"Pope Francis: A Man of His Word," rated PG, is now playing at the Dipson Eastern Hills cinema. Contains some tense footage of refugees surviving on boats.