A documentary that lets you feel like you are in the same room with the Pope is something special. A film that affirms one’s core values is a delight. German director Wim Wenders centers his film on the sincerity and the holiness of Pope Francis. The seventy-two-year-old Wenders has directed other award winning documentaries that I have loved “ The Buena Vista Social Club” ( 1999 ) heralding Cuban Musicians. It was entrancing. His “ Salt of the Earth” ( 2014) was reviewed by me on Word Press ( May 11, 2015 ). In this documentary, Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado is lauded for his artful images and vision. We are entranced again.
Yet, Wenders considers “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word” his best film. His respect for the man and for his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, permeates the documentary.
Using straight on camera shots, Wenders fills the screen with Francis’s face. Pope Francis talks passionately about the inequality of the world’s wealth and about our responsibility to the Earth and to the poor. Psalm 53 is invoked: “ Do they not know better/ They feed upon people as they feed upon bread?” Love, compassion and unity mingle with mercy and hope for humanity. These are the words: “ Mercy, hope, humility~ whisper them in our sleep. Shout them, too.” The Pope’s eyes twinkle.
He is serious when he says, “ Serve God or serve money”. His eyes smile with tenderness “ Poverty is central to the Bible.” “ The more powerful you are, the more humble you should be.” Generosity is key. “ You can always add more water to the beans!” “We can all do with less.” He says no to an economy of exclusion. Eighty percent of the world’s riches are in twenty per cent of the world’s hands.
Francis talks from his heart. As his recent encyclical states, we need to mend, to tend our common home. Our reckless exploitation of Earth is seen on monumental overlays superimposed over the Basilica’s facade. Image by image fills us with shame. Mother Earth is being plundered in our culture of waste. We must be her caretaker.
The dignity of work is stressed. One loses one’s dignity with lack of work. Work is seen as sacred: the most noble thing man has. Workers without rights, farmers without land , and indigenous peoples without homes all are addressed.
This is “The Who am I to judge him? “ Pope. Eight hundred years ago St. Francis tried to unite Muslims and Christians. Today, Pope Francis tells us that we are all children of Abraham. We should not be scared of the numbers of refugees. No one should be marginalized.
He asks for young, idealistic seekers to take a revolutionary path in changing the world. He leads through shepherding the world in not being indifferent to injustice and to suffering. The film can be viewed as a traveling sermon. It is one the world sorely needs.