Call Me Francesco – the Pope (Chiamatemi Francesco)
Director Daniele Luchetti’s inspiration for the film about the life of Pope Francis came from the people who knew him best.
“To gather information about his youth we took a long trip to Argentina and we talked with a lot of people, friends, parishioners; in Buenos Aires. There’s barely a single person without a personal memory of the Pope”, said Luchetti. “But then I stopped thinking of him of a person that was alive and kicking, who lived a mile from my house. I even stopped reading articles about the Pope.”
Chiamatemi Francesco takes us back to Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s youth and his first thoughts about a life serving God, from his decision to leave his friends (and a girlfriend) and become a Jesuit priest in some of the most difficult years in the history of Argentina. Pope Francis, as Luchetti shows us, has been able to advance his causes, his career, and his spirituality by managing, somehow, to minister to the faithful without getting arrested, tortured, and killed by the dictatorship’s death squads, as many of his colleagues did.
Luchetti didn’t want to make a churchy movie, and this seems like an impossible task, a movie about the church that isn’t churchy, but Luchetti has pulled it off. Full disclosure: I’m Catholic and so it’s possible that this film touched me in a more substantial way, but only the fiercest opponent to the Catholic church could watch Chiamatemi Francesco and not be affected at least a little by the exemplary life and personal strength of this man who just happens to be Pope.
And yet Luchetti doesn’t try to make him a saint. Could he have done more to fight the government brutalities, like some of his fellow priests? Maybe, but then he might not have survived to help others. Francis was strong and faithful, but also practical.
It’s been a long time since a movie brought me to tears, but this one
The Film Society at Lincoln Center brings us Chiamatemi Francesco at
The World’s Smallest Army (L’Esercito Più Piccolo del Mondo)
Maybe it’s because I’m Catholic, or because I love Rome, or because Gianfranco Pannone has so skillfully and sweetly told the story of young men in today’s Vatican Swiss Guards that I have so much affection for this wonderful documentary that premiered at Venice 72.
Probably all of the above, with the addition of the appeal of the protagonists, exemplary young men who have just arrived at Vatican City for their training, sincere and ready to work hard as part of L’Esercito Più Piccolo Del Mondo, The Smallest Army in the World.
The Swiss Guards, Italian Guardia Svizzera, are the Swiss soldiers responsible for the safety of the pope, the guys you see in the colorful old timey outfits guarding the doors at the Vatican. Often called “the world’s smallest army,” their role has gone from actual soldiers, to a more ceremonial role, and these days, back to actual bodyguards, particularly after the attempt to assassinate John Paul II.
Pannone has obviously taken the old adage “show, don’t tell” to heart, because he truly lets us into the Vatican, and into these young men’s lives. It’s fascinating, watching them learn Italian and everything else they need to know, and getting to know each other. I’d watch a L’Esercito Piu Piccolo Del Mondo, the sequel; I want to know more!
This could be a great TV reality show and I’d much rather watch the lives of these sweet guys than the Kardashians.