Pope Francis, or Jorge Mario Bergoglio to his friends, is unique in many ways. He’s the first pope to hail from the Americas and the first from the southern hemisphere. Not since the eighth century has there been a head of the Roman Catholic Church from outside of Europe. Most importantly of all, there has never been a Jesuit pontiff and this focus on missionary and pastoral work guides his actions. Indeed, this determination to help everyone, regardless of their beliefs, is the shining light which guides Francesco.
The Holy See is not only a position of power but one of great responsibility. Each pope chooses their own path but, as Evgeny Afineevsky’s new documentary demonstrates, Francis has a very different approach when fulfilling his burden. Francesco is an all-encompassing portrait of a world leader who takes his job very seriously. Unlike his peers, he repeatedly goes out of his way to highlight the plight of others, especially those of other faiths and religions.
It’s easy to be cynical about a film like Francesco, but a documentary by a Jewish filmmaker about the head of the Roman Catholic church who spends a lot of time highlighting the issues (largely) faced by Muslims is unusual. Whilst he can only go so far in liberalising such an outdated establishment, you can see what he’s trying to do. Francesco takes us on this journey, in a stylish and purposely affecting way. Whilst it jumps around a little too much, you can’t fault the craft involved or the focus which is almost universally away from theology and centred on modern global issues.
Francesco is in US cinemas on 26 March and will stream globally on Discovery+ from 28 March.