Wim Wenders is the acclaimed German filmmaker whose work includes Paris, Texas, Alice In The Cities and Wings of Desire and the Oscar-winning Buena Vista Social Club. His latest film Pope Francis: A Man of His Word is a frank and life-affirming interview with the current head of the Roman Catholic Church.
ASFF: How did you feel when you first met with Pope Francis?
WW: I thought I knew a lot about him, but I was still nervous when he first entered the room for the first shoot. After all, the Pope was going to come through that door! Then a man came all alone. He came unaccompanied without bodyguards. He came in, looked at all of us in a friendly way. And then he went around, shaking hands and exchanging a few words with everybody, finding out who speaks what language. We realised he wants to show us he’s just a man like everybody else.
ASFF: What impressions did he leave you with?
WW: He is not first of all a theologian. He’s first of all interested in people and in communicating with people. He sees Church not as an instrument of power but an instrument of community. That’s why a lot of people accuse him of being a Communist – it’s the same root of the word. He’s not. He’s interested in community. He knows that God appears to us, for believers, in other people more than anything else.
ASFF: He also sheds trappings of wealth, even touring in a small car. Did that surprise you?
WW: In his very first [official] visit, he caused a ruckus by refusing limousines and arriving in used Toyotas. When he came to our shoot in the garden of the Vatican, he peeled himself out of the smallest car available in Italy, which is the Fiat Panda! He likes to show that we don’t need all this; we don’t need symbols of wealth. He’s extremely modest.
ASFF: Were you nervous to address the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church?
WW: Well, I knew his position. I didn’t foresee that he was going to be so emotional about it and he really got angry and upset. I realised if only he could, he would go much further. We knew that he has a lot of resistance in the church and adversaries. Lately, even some of his cardinals and bishops accuse him of heresy, and that’s about the worst you can say about a Pope. On the other hand, he’s carried by so many people who are happy that he’s opened the Church and moved it into the 21st century.
ASFF: How did you change after meeting Pope Francis?
WW: He lives as an example of courage. And seeing a man who is so fearless and seeing him on a daily basis – and having actually met him a few times and having talked for two very intense hours – you start to question things like: “Why are you afraid of things? Why do you think to avoid conflict? Why do you do things to make life easier?” I’m more confrontational. I just simply do [things] because I think they’re right. I don’t ask if they are politically correct.
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word opens in cinemas on 10 August. For more details, visit Universal Pictures.
1. Still from Pope Francis: A Man of His Word.