In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis
(Italy, 80 min)
Dir. Gianfranco Rosi
I’m not a Catholic but it’s always impressive to see a miracle. Award-winning director Gianfranco Rosi has performed one, making a relevant film about the current Pope, Francis, delivering messages of peace and hope to a world ravaged by war and suffering. Over the course of the film, In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis, we follow the pontiff as he delivers homilies to worshippers, politicians and religious non-Catholic colleagues, including Muslims and Jews, over nearly a decade. During what has been a terrible time for so many of us, Pope Francis has spoken comforting words all over the world.
Rosi shows the Pope bravely talking to people who are angry at him. We see him speaking to Chilean women upset because he has defended the controversial Father Barros of sexual abuse charges—and after much pressure, he eventually apologizes to them. In Canada, as we know, he apologizes for the residential school system, which destroyed the lives of countless Indigenous children, but his language is careful to avoid specifically accepting the Church’s responsibility for sexual and emotional abuse. Everywhere the Pope goes, he says brilliant things about war and poverty and human dignity without actually making an impact apart from making his believers somewhat happier.
Gianfranco Rosi is a brilliant documentary filmmaker, who has won awards at Venice and Berlin for such hard-hitting films as Fire at Sea about North Africans attempting illegal landings in Sicily and Notturno, which showed the devastating effects of war in Syria, Lebanon, Kurdistan and Iraq. Here he shows the Pope traveling to devastated areas of the world and, well, pontificating.
Rosi films the Pope going to Israel and performing the difficult task of apologizing to the Jews for the Holocaust while also showing support for the Palestinians. In the Central African Republic, he embraces Catholics and Muslims during a devastating civil war. Wherever he can, Pope Francis sincerely and eloquently promotes peace, love and understanding. There are long and persuasive scenes with the Pope being embraced by his followers in Brazil, Kenya, the Philippines, Cuba and even the United States.
Pope Francis is a star. Rosi’s film emphasizes his humanity. The Pope is a wonderful speaker, whose language is poetic, passionate, and persuasive. The Pope’s humility makes him intensely loveable to his acolytes. Despite any criticism one might have about the Papal office, Francis is one of the most beloved figures in the world.
Gianfranco Rosi has made a film about a Pope dealing with a complex and difficult world. He has not white-washed Francis’ problems at all. In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis could have been a throwaway piece. It’s not.
In Viaggio opens in Toronto at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on March 31.