By MARK PATTISON, Catholic News Service | Published June 1, 2017
WASHINGTON (CNS)—New movies are in the works with distinctively Catholic themes.
A documentary featuring the pope, “Pope Francis—A Man of His Word,” was bought by Focus Features for later theatrical release. And a dramatization of the Marian apparitions at Fatima, Portugal, starring American actor Harvey Keitel was announced May 18 by Arclight Pictures, at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
The “Pope Francis” movie was written and directed by Wim Wenders, who has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature Oscars three times—for 1999’s “Buena Vista Social Club,” 2011’s “Pina” and 2014’s “Salt of the Earth.” The German-born Wenders started out directing feature films, most notably “Wings of Desire” and “Paris, Texas,” but later in his career gravitated to documentaries.
“Pope Francis—A Man of His Word” was touted by Focus Features, which bought distribution rights to the film, as “only the second co-production that the Vatican has made with outside filmmakers and the first in which a pope addresses the audience directly, discussing topics such as ecology, immigration, consumerism and social justice.”
“Wenders is aware that it is how we view the world that makes it pure or impure: a burden of responsibility we are constantly aware of when watching his documentary works,” said a statement by Msgr. Dario Vigano, prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for Communication, which was included in the Focus Features announcement May 19. “That’s why the German master was invited to take part in the opening ceremony of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy called by Pope Francis.”
“Pope Francis is a living example of a man who stands for what he says,” said Wenders in a statement. “In our film, he speaks directly to the viewer, very candidly and spontaneously. We wanted ‘Pope Francis—A Man of His Word’ to be for all audiences, as the pope’s message is universal.”
Just five days before the announcement about the Fatima film, Pope Francis had canonized two of the child visionaries to whom Mary appeared in Portugal, in 1917. Blessed Jacinta Marto and Blessed Francisco Marto had died in the influenza epidemic that ravaged Europe at the end of World War I. The third seer was their cousin, Carmelite Sister Lucia dos Santos, whose sainthood cause has been opened.
The movie about the Fatima apparitions, with the working title “Fatima,” is in preproduction, according to The Tablet, an international Catholic weekly newspaper in England. Keitel, 78, is known to audiences for his roles in “Reservoir Dogs,” “Pulp Fiction” and the first “Sister Act” movie. He has made a living playing sinister characters on celluloid.
Announced as a co-star with Keitel is Brazilian-born actress Sonia Braga, best known for her roles in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.”
There was no word on who would play the three child visionaries, or when the film might be in theaters.
Gary Hamilton, producer and managing director of Arclight Films, was quoted by the Hollywood Reporter, a trade journal, as saying, “‘Fatima’ is a highly commercially viable film that remains true to its miraculous message.”
A third movie, “The Good Catholic,” will be released Sept. 8 in a small number of theaters in the United States as well as go to video-on-demand platforms.
Billed as a romantic comedy, the story centers on a priest (Zachary Spicer) who hears the confession of a nun (Wrenn Schmidt) and falls in love with her. Danny Glover and John C. McGinley have supporting roles as the priest’s two mentors, McGinley as a carbohydrate-addicted Franciscan and Glover as a no-nonsense traditionalist.
The movie’s writer-director, Paul Shoulberg, has said the film is based on his parents and is a tribute to his late father, Donald, once a Holy Cross priest who had himself fallen in love with a nun. Shoulberg’s previous film, “Walter,” starred William H. Macy, Neve Campbell and Milo Ventimiglia about a movie ticket-taker who believes himself to be the son of God and has agreed to determine whether the people he meets go to heaven or hell.