By Liz Lopez

Rating: B

Award winning filmmaker Wim Wenders (Palme d’Or winner “Paris, Texas”/ “The Buena Vista Social Club”) directs the new documentary, “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” and it recently screened at the Cannes Film Festival this month. Wenders received access to the pontiff after his selection in 2013 to lead the Catholic Church. There are many interviews where the pope speaks direct into the camera, as well as a large amount of footage of Pope Francis as he has traveled around the world. The majority of the story is focused on Pope Francis’ views on love, compassion, tolerance, and more that have already been revealed in the worldwide media. In the sit-down interview segments that are sprinkled throughout the film, Pope Francis speaks in his native Spanish. The fact that he speaks Spanish in the film will most certainly attract worldwide interest and attention, especially for the bilingual and Spanish dominant speakers in the United States, as well as audiences in Latin America.

The film is beautifully shot by Lisa Renzler and edited Maxine Goedicke. They have created some great scenes through their up-close coverage of his trips in Brazil, Central Africa, the U. S. (Philadelphia and Congress), Greece and a Jerusalem Holocaust remembrance ceremony, among others.

The Argentine clergyman was known as Jorge Mario Bergoglio, but as he became pope, he was the first pope to take the name of Francis (taken from St. Francis of Assisi). He is also the first pope from the Americas and the first Jesuit pope. From the start with all these “firsts,” he has garnered worldwide attention, but for an individual who is looking to learn more about his life prior to being pope, there is little information provided via this story, aside from brief archival footage. He continues with the “firsts” as he elects to live in accommodations other than the official papal residence. His washing the feet of prison inmates made headlines and to see footage of the pope arriving in a tiny electric car among all the black security vehicles is a scene not to be missed. It is very telling of his choice to live a different papal life than others and he has a focus on global poverty, as well as issues about the environment and the rights for those who migrate and other human rights.

Of note, Wenders informs viewers about the life of St. Francis of Asissi in black-and-white vignettes. While it appears as very vintage footage, I found it interesting, but not very necessary for the screenplay by Wenders and David Rossier.

“Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” is a high quality documentary that is recommended for a wide range of age groups, not necessarily for small children, but for older students who will learn alongside parents or teachers. It will be interesting to see if parishes will make organized trips to view the film in the theaters instead of waiting for the home entertainment version. It will now open in select theaters in the United States, including Austin on May 18th at the Regal Arbor Cinema.

Source: Focus Features

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