Faith is making a cinematic comeback at TIFF and it’s taking the Catholic church along for the ride.
With so much of the news dominated by headlines of scandal following Pope Benedict’s unprecedented resignation in 2013, then Anthony Hopkins conversion from atheism to Christianity, and now Pope Francis’ urgent pleas to build bridges and not walls— it’s no wonder that Netflix’s original flick, The Two Popes made it to the top of our must-watch list.
Pope Benedict XVI stunned the Roman Catholic church when he announced his intention to carry out the first papal resignation in almost 600 years. Among the 1.2 billion believers struggling to make sense of it all, writer, Anthony McCarten.
Inspired by true events, The Two Popes dramatizes the encounters between Pope Benedict XVI (Sir Anthony Hopkins), and his successor, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), leading up to Pope Benedict’s shocking resignation.
In the Q&A panel following the screening, McCarten shares how this “cataclysmic event” prompted his own questioning, research and ultimately writing of the fictionalized ‘what might have happened’ screenplay.
The footage in TheTwo Popes is stunning. When Director, Federico Meirelles, best known for City of God, was asked how he got filming access for dialogue scenes in the Sistine Chapel, he laughed saying, “It was easy. Netflix has lots of money. We built a Sistine Chapel; only ours was five inches longer, and with a 3D ceiling.” Despite a lack of Vatican support for the project, and teasingly saying Pope Francis “couldn’t care less” about the film, and his doubt that Pope Francis will ever watch TheTwo Popes, Meirelles’ motivation for directing the film stems from a deeper desire to understand Pope Francis’ heart.
Meirelles says he’d always been interested in Pope Frances and felt the need to spread his message. “I am not very optimistic about the world,” he said. “There is something out of place, and I think Pope Francis is one of the most important voices today. He is the one trying to build bridges while everyone else is trying to build walls.”
And at a time when the papacy is marked by all kinds of controversy, McCarten or Meirelles certainly didn’t set out to justify the past. Instead, they showcased a powerful message of the reality of sin, forgiveness, unity and hope for the future.
With two opposites like Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, there was bound to be a lot of conflict between two of the most powerful leaders in the Catholic church. McCarten’s interplay of humour, music, wit, philosophical themes of embracing the future and passing the baton, all fused together into a narrative I won’t soon forget.
When asked if the film could divide or unite the global Catholic church, McCarten responded, “If the message of forgiveness is lost, then we will have completely failed. We are all sinners. We’ve all made mistakes…You can’t control the impact of a work of art— but we would hope at least that it [forgiveness] gets through.”
Pope Francis recently told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square that “to serve hope in our day is to build bridges between cultures.” But just how do we build human bridges in a world of bickering and division? McCarten might suggest, by listening. “Sometimes, the hardest thing is to listen,” he said. “We have a crisis of not listening in the world, and until we listen to those on the other side of our views, I think we’re going to stay in crisis.”
The Two Popes is playing at the Toronto International Film Festival. Followed by a limited release in theatres starting Nov. 27 before premiering on Netflix on Dec. 20. For more information on showtimes visit: https://www.tiff.net/events/the-two-popes