On the recent occasion of the 50th anniversary of ZDF, I have been intrigued by the title FRANCESCO UND DER PAPST (FRANCESCO AND THE POPE) After the resignation of Benedict XVI and the worldwide enthusiasm arising from the election of his successor, whose name is Francis or Francesco (in Italian), I was quite certain it is the documentary about the newly elected pope (just an interesting coincidence to add: the director, Ciro Cappelari, like pope Francis, is from Argentina). But soon, the date of the production (2011) proved the assumption wrong.
I was surprised to see an 12 year-old narrator of the film, Francesco Janucci, a member of Pueri Cantores at the Sistine Chapel whose presence is a fresh breath within the conventional walls of the Vatican. Although he lives a simple life attending school, playing football with his mates, listening to hip hop music with his two brothers, his world is different, his dreams are also different than those widespread among his pals. Thanks to a unique and highly unpredictable decision of Monsignor Giuseppe Liberto, the day will come for Francesco at a yearly meeting of the choir with the Pope. Francesco will sing solo before Pope Benedict XVI, the hero of his world. Although their realities differ considerably, there is one passion the boy and the pope share: MUSIC.
FRANCESCO AND THE POPE, with its considerably short length and the time span of approximately one year (2009), is a captivating and pretty convincing glimpse of the contrasts in the boy's world. Expressed implicitly through a hip hop music piece, Fabri Fibra's "In Italia," being listened to by his two brothers in contrast with "Dominus Pascit Me" being prepared for the concert, Francesco blends music as fun (which would be the case with the majority of the boys of his age) with music as work (which makes his unique dreams come true). The heart of the documentary concerns him and, though there appear many eminent figures, including Maestro Giuseppe Liberto, Secretary of State, cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Master of Liturgical Celebrations Guido Marini and Pope Benedict himself, they are all seen from the boy's perspective, sometimes a naive perspective but a fragile and an absorbing one. Francesco regards the Pope as his friend and hero, he compares his journeys to his grandfather's, he wonders whether Holy Father feels good and comfortable at the Vatican and takes off his red shoes when being casual. The Pope is constantly present in his daily routines, in his thoughts.
In background, we get some glimpses of Benedict XVI privately as well as his apostolic journeys of 2009, including Cameroon and Angola in March, the Holy Land (Israel and Jordan) in May and his night return from the Czech Republic in September. Different cameras, different perspectives! We see him privately in his apartments at the Apostolic Palace as well as walking the Vatican Garden and the gardens of Castel Gandolfo with his private secretary Georg Gaenswein. Moreover, the Vatican is presented as not merely a closed world within its walls but a vibrant and open place. Midway through the documentary, we see Pope Benedict XVI being interviewed by different media of the world on the plane. Variety of media, variety of world views that show respect to the Successor of Peter but no one is afraid of opposing world-views and the pope faces controversial questions.
And that point draws its perfect parallel to Francesco's life as well as the intention of Ciro Capellari. The director being an atheist himself, presents the whole story from particularly humane perspective leaving the religious aspect aside. No ultra Catholic views of any devout Catholic who, by the way, would perhaps belong to the sole group that seemingly 'worships' the Pope. That diversity is beautifully expressed in the words of She'ar Yashuv Cohen, the Rabbi of Haifa, and makes the Catholic Church and the Vatican more attractive, particularly for young people. Francesco himself states that he would never become a priest and the prayer is not the most helpful means for him but...singing.
And singers' dreams come true relatively early while life offers a moment in time that lasts but a short while yet a 5 minute-moment seems like a year. Good to catch such a moment and individually dwell in its bliss till an evening. Even though the end of the day so much differs between two persons... Bellissima Voce, Francesco!
In this review, I derived some information from www.papst-film.de
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