Pope Francis – A Man of His Word
by director Wim Wenders
March 13, 2013, was an exciting day. Not only that we had a new pope and that the Cardinal of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, became the 266th pontiff of the Catholic Church. But he was the first pope from the Americas, the first from the Southern hemisphere, the first Jesuit as bishop of Rome, and most of all, the first pope to have chosen the name of Francesco! Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) was one of the most revered Christian saints and reformers who had dedicated his life to poverty, and his deep love of nature and for all living beings on Earth is still exemplary. Many people on our planet, not just me, had the highest hopes for the pope who had chosen a name that in itself was a promise.
From the beginning, Pope Francis – A Man of His Word was supposed to be a personal journey with Pope Francis rather than a traditional biographical film about him. I wanted the pope’s ideas and his message to be the centre of this documentary, his work of reform and his answers to today’s global questions.
I imagined the visual and narrative concept to engage the audience face-to-face with the pope, creating a dialogue between him and, literally, the world. Taking questions from people from all walks of life, Pope Francis responds to farmers and workers, refugees, children and the elderly, prison inmates and those who live in shantytowns. All of these voices and faces are a cross-section of humanity joining in a conversation with Pope Francis.
The Vatican made it very clear to me that I’d have carte blanche and very privileged access to the archives, in addition to final cut. They let us shoot without interfering. We had four long interview sessions with Pope Francis, on four afternoons spread over two years. We shot three of them indoors in various places in the Vatican and one outside in a garden, but still inside the walls of the Vatican. You don’t just go out to a park somewhere to shoot with the pope.
We shot with several cameras, the main one with an “Interrotron” in front of it, a sort of “reversed teleprompter,” which allowed Pope Francis to see me on a screen and look me in the eyes while we spoke, but at the same time look straight into the lens and thereby into the eyes of everybody watching the film. In these four long talks, Pope Francis was utterly spontaneous, direct and open in all his answers.
In an era of deep distrust of politicians and people in power, when lies, corruption and fake news are the order of the day, our film shows us a man who lives what he preaches and who has gained the trust of people across the world, from all religious, cultural and social backgrounds. That’s why I think this is not just a film for Catholics or Christians. Pope Francis – A Man of His Word helps to do away with certain prejudices and misunderstandings. The pope, literally, has his arms wide open for everyone.