Sunday, November 15, 2020

DOC NYC Spotlight: Francesco

I’m excited to be covering DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eleventh year, this time in a mostly online format, from November 11th-19th. 

Directed by Evgeny Afineevsky 
Ticket Information

There aren’t too many people who are known by most of the world. Certain actors and celebrities achieve that kind of fame, and a few political leaders, like the President of the United States or the Queen of England, might also be recognizable to almost anyone. Another figure whose position, at the very least, is almost universally known is the Pope. The press coverage and influence that come with that prominence can be used to bring attention to important causes, and there is an immense power to the words spoken and actions done by a person of stature, modeling behavior for those who look up to them.

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Buenos Aires, and joined the Jesuit order shortly after becoming a priest. While serving as a cardinal in Argentina, Bergoglio maintained great relationships with the community rabbi and sheikh, emphasizing the spirit of interreligious coexistence. After being elected at the papal conclave in 2013, Pope Francis took on a number of issues close to his heart, traveling across the world to support causes that had not directly influenced him but which he wanted to spotlight so that the world could not ignore the plight of others.

This is an inspiring film that comes at an important moment in time, opening with shots of completely abandoned public spaces during the coronavirus pandemic. Pope Francis speaks frequently and widely about climate change and the need to protect the planet, as well as a duty to remember and help the poor communities of the world. He makes explicit visits to places where conflict exists to deliver a message of peace, speaking to everyone on all sides, actively listening and seeking to understand their perspective. Such trips are far more than just symbolic, particularly because they have nothing to do with Catholicism and everything to do with being part of the human race, which the leader of a religion seems to see as more important than anything else.

This documentary tackles as much as it can in just under two hours, and it’s a fascinating and invigorating portrait of a man with seemingly no ego despite the immense magnitude of his role. Interviews with those who have known or studied him are enlightening, and what he shares directly with an interviewer conveys great wisdom and humility. It also portrays him as a man willing to admit his flaws, never eager to take the easy route that doesn’t require considerable self-examination and constant humbling. Pope Francis is a mesmerizing figure, and this film offers a fantastic spotlight on him.


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