Synopsis: A chronicle of the first nine years of Pope Francis’ pontificate, including trips to 53 countries, focusing on his most important issues – poverty, migration, environment, solidarity, and war – while giving rare access to the public life of the pontifical.
Stars: Pope Francis
Director: Gianfranco Rosi
Running Length: 80 minutes
TMMM Score: (7/10)
Review: While the box office has been known to be set ablaze by dramatized faith-based feature films (see Jesus Revolution for the most recent example), there is a curious lack of opportunity in the documentary realm to get closer to a religion without having to take a side. Indeed there are areas within the church and religious orders that need to be brought out into the open after years in secrecy and darkness. Still, at the same time, I see an equal benefit in the unbiased approach that can shed a different kind of light.
A strong case for this is In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis, director Gianfranco Rosi’s cinema verite-esqe examination of the head of the Catholic Church. Using primarily archival footage, Rosi trims down a wealth of material concerning the papal leader and his travels abroad, painting a picture bound to surprise audiences expecting something completely different. While it could kindly be called languid at the outset, it ultimately is rewarding for those that understand the importance of its subtle shifts and deliberate pace.
Without a narration to guide the viewer, we depend on dates and locations that appear onscreen throughout. Most are in sequential order, but when the timeline diverges, there doesn’t seem to be a huge explanation as to why, save for more significant cinematic impact. As Pope Francis globe trots from one nation to another, those that come to see him embrace him with the respect the position calls for, but the man himself appears to understand the great responsibility this requires. Rosi (Oscar-nominated in 2017 for the short film Fire at Sea) presents moments of deep spiritual reverence in tandem with random errors in speaking (whether it be due to language barriers or differences of belief) and then how the pontificate deals with the correction.
I wouldn’t like to claim I know much about the Catholic Church or its history of authority, but I know that Pope Francis has been heralded as a leader with an eye on a hopeful future. That comes across clearly in In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis, and it’s not because Rosi has molded his film to come to that conclusion. The footage reveals a leader that prefers to be out among people and not stowed away in the confines of Vatican City. For that reason alone, it’s easy to recommend this revealing look at his worldwide journeys.