LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Pope Francis is heading to the big screen to talk life, the universe and everything in a rare Vatican-backed theatrical documentary, studio executives announced Wednesday (Feb 14).
Written and directed by three-time Oscar nominee Wim Wenders (Paris, Texas, Buena Vista Social Club), Pope Francis - A Man of His Word, opens in the US on May 18, Focus Features said.
In the documentary, an almost unheard-of co-production with the Vatican and outside filmmakers, the pope addresses the audience directly, discussing immigration, ecology, wealth inequality and the role of the family.
"The film's direct-to-camera visual and narrative concepts engage the audience face-to-face with the pope, creating a dialogue between him and, literally, the world," a spokesman said in a statement. "Taking questions from people of all walks of life, Pope Francis responds to farmers and workers, refugees, children and the elderly, prison inmates, and those who live in favelas and migrant camps."
The film shows the 81-year-old pontiff travelling the world, with footage of him speaking at the United Nations, addressing the US Congress and at Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. He speaks to prisoners and to refugees in Mediterranean camps, and is shown visiting the Palestinian territories and Israel as well as Africa, South America and Asia.
"Pope Francis is a living example of a man who stands for what he says. In our film, he speaks directly to the viewer, very candidly and spontaneously," Wenders said in a statement when the project was first announced last year. "We wanted 'Pope Francis - A Man of his Word' to be for all audiences, as the pope's message is universal."
Focus said Universal Pictures International will distribute the film overseas, although there were no immediate details on the global release schedule.
The former archbishop of Buenos Aires, born as Jorge Mario Bergoglio in the Argentine capital in December 1936, rose from modest beginnings to become the first Latin American leader of the 1.2 billion-strong Church.
Pope Francis made his big-screen debut last year, playing himself in a six-minute cameo role in the English-language children's adventure film Beyond the Sun.