In Oscar-nominated director Wim Wenders’ new documentary, the audience is invited to contemplate the character, spirit, and vision of Pope Francis as he endeavors to lead the Church in the spirit of his namesake, St. Francis of Assisi.
Part docudrama, part travelogue, and part on-camera interviews, the film dramatizes the life of St. Francis (in black-and-white, silent-film style) and creates a narrative of Pope Francis living and teaching the Gospel today as the poor man of Assisi did centuries ago.
There isn’t much by way of biography in the film, though Wenders reminds us that Pope Francis is the first pope to come from Latin America and the first Jesuit elected to the See of Peter. This film is filled with inspirational words and beautiful images to reinforce the pastoral passion of Pope Francis for all people and for the earth.
The pope’s 2015 encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” from the hymn of praise of creation by St. Francis, frames this 96-minute documentary and is based on human dignity. The pope talks about the “culture of trash” that we have created on which the marginalized and vulnerable in society must survive. He speaks of the need to believe what science tells us so that we can care for one another and the earth. And he expresses a deep concern for the care of immigrants and tells governments to stop the trade in guns and armaments.
This film is an inspiring meditation that will comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable into action to change the world. At times, the film moves slowly, but I didn’t mind. I wanted to hear what our Holy Father had to say. Viewers get a clear sense of the burden he bears every day. Yet Pope Francis says two things are necessary to survive in our world: a smile and a sense of humor.
Not yet rated • Some graphic images of human suffering.
Fred Rogers (1928–2003) was born in Pennsylvania and wanted to study for the ministry. He was eventually ordained a Presbyterian minister after earning a degree in music composition. Rogers married, had two sons, and began exploring the new medium of television in a way that would influence millions for over 35 years. His goal was to help children through the difficulties of life. As the film says, “He had an abiding belief that children deserve more from television.” Thus, he set out to produce shows that did just that.
This new documentary, directed by Morgan Neville, is a gentle journey of love through Mr. Rogers’ television neighborhood and friends, with commentary from wife, Joanne, sons, James and John, Yo-Yo Ma, and François Clemmons, who was Officer Clemmons on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
“I like you just as you are” was Fred’s catchphrase. He believed in communicating messages of peace, tenderness, and peaceful coexistence. “Children cannot grow,” he said, “unless they are accepted as they are.” His own childhood experiences with bullying certainly influenced how he related to children.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? will have you reaching for tissues. It will also invite you to consider the television programming you allow in your home and to make wise choices.
Not yet rated • Some graphic images of human suffering
Pauline priest Father Gabriele Amorth, SSP (1925–2016), was an exorcist of the Vicariate of Rome, Italy, for more than 30 years. He was involved in the formation of members of his religious community, the Society of St. Paul, and became a writer and editor. This new documentary comes from Oscar-winner William Friedkin, director of 1973’s The Exorcist. It is not clear why Father Amorth was asked to become an exorcist, but he did so with the permission of his superiors.
In an unheard-of move, Father Amorth allowed Friedkin to film an actual exorcism, which is partially included in the film. I asked an exorcist who had seen the film about this. He said it is unfortunate and that he hopes anyone who watches this film will remember that people who are possessed or oppressed by the devil are truly suffering. It is the role of the exorcist, with the permission of his bishop, to relieve that suffering.
Father Amorth wanted people to know that the devil does exist, and it seems as if the filmmaker does too.
Not yet rated • Some frightening scenes.