Argentina, circa 1976-1983: a young and daring priest risks his life by helping thousands of political dissidents flee the country during a military junta known as the “Dirty War.” At one point, he even gives his passport and priestly garbs to a man who resembles him, allowing the latter to escape unscathed.
What sounds like a scene from a thrilling spy movie is actually a true story from the life of Pope Francis. Indeed, our beloved Pontiff has such a colorful past (everyone still gets a kick out of the fact that Lolo Kiko was once a bouncer in a club!), it’s no surprise that he is the subject of at least three documentaries:
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Francis: the Pope from the New World (2016)
Running a little over 51 minutes, this documentary by The Knights of Columbus combines existing footage with exclusive interviews to paint an honest-to-goodness portrait of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, from his early years as the son of Italian immigrants in Argentina to his reputation as the people’s priest and eventual installation as Pope.
Testimonials by his fellow priests, longtime friends, Argentina’s locals, and his official biographer affirm that Fr. Bergoglio was already practicing the teachings of St. Francis long before he had taken on his name. There are stories of him visiting Argentina’s underprivileged and eschewing material trappings for a simple life. It’s no wonder that he is often described as a “man of action—social action.”
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word (2018)
In 2014, the Vatican sent a letter to German film director Wim Wenders inviting him to make a documentary on the Pope. The result is this one-hour-and-36-minute view of the life of the Pontiff, who addresses audiences directly through an interrotron camera. “He answered questions fearlessly, spontaneously, directly,” said the director in an interview with Build. “He was not afraid of my questions.”
Interspersed with footages of him at the US Congress, an African children’s hospital, and a prison in Philadelphia, as well as appearances by US President Donald Trump, his predecessor Barack Obama, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, among others, the documentary premiered at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival. No, Pope Francis didn’t attend its screening—nor has he seen the finished product. “It’s just not my thing,” he said in a report by Crux.
Call Me Francis/Chiamatemi Francesco (2016)
Rodrigo de la Serna and Sergio Hernandez play the young and mature Jorge Bergoglio, respectively, in this biopic by Daniele Luchetti. Taking off in Rome, where the then Archbishop of Buenos Aires is about to participate in a conclave that would change his life forever, the film traces key moments leading up to this historical event—among them, his carefree bachelor days, complete with a sweetheart he wanted to marry, and his firsthand experience with Argentina’s Dirty War.
The movie can be seen on Netflix as a four-part miniseries.