Viewers hoping Wim Wenders’ documentary about Pope Francis will be a critical portrait of the head of the Catholic Church will be disappointed. The German director makes no excuses for the fact this is a work of love for a man he respects.
Wenders, who won the Palme d’Or for “Paris, Texas” in 1984, has made several successful documentaries, including “Buena Vista Social Club” about the Cuban music scene, and “Pina” on dance choreographer Pina Bausch – subjects that, like the pope, are things he has great affection for.
“I didn’t want to make a critical film about him, other people do that really well, television does it all the time,” Wenders told Reuters in Cannes where “Pope Francis – a Man of His Word” had its premiere.
“My documentaries are expressions of love and affection for something that I want to share with the world … Right now I think there is nobody who has more important things to say to us [than] the pope, so I wanted to share that.”
“We are living in an utterly immoral time and our political leaders, powerful leaders, are emotional dwarfs. So I wanted to have this emotional giant talk to us.”
Jorge Mario Bergoglio, born in Argentina in 1936, became pope in 2013 after the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict.
He chose his papal name after Francis of Assisi, a figure Wenders calls “a revolutionary” for his work with the poor and nature.
“Today Saint Francis would be the first ecologist of the world. Pope Francis took on a heavy duty prog by choosing that name,” Wenders said.
He filmed four two-hour interviews with Francis in which the pope talked directly into camera.
He said a kind of “teleprompter in reverse” allowed him to get that intimate look, by imposing Wenders’ face on a transparent screen with a camera behind it “so by looking into my eyes he sees everybody’s eyes”.
“This man communicates in such an honest direct and spontaneous way … even with the greatest actors you find that very rarely,” Wenders said.
With no prerequisites from the Vatican, Wenders insists his film is more than a promotional video.
“It is not propaganda,” he said.
“It’s not a commission. I was free to do what I wanted to do and this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to give a platform for his work, period.”
The Cannes Film Festival runs to May 19.