These are the words

Wim Wenders on his first meeting for Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Wim Wenders with Lisa Rinzler, his cinematographer for ‪Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word‬ at The Whitby Hotel reception
Wim Wenders with Lisa Rinzler, his cinematographer for ‪Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word‬ at The Whitby Hotel reception Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screening of Wim Wenders' Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word at The Whitby Hotel in midtown Manhattan, the director spoke about how he commandeered Patti Smith into writing a song (These Are The Words) for the documentary and shared her recount of a premonition she voiced to the friars of Assisi.

Wim Wenders with Anne-Katrin Titze on what Pope Francis told him on their first meeting: "I've heard a lot about you. But you have to know, I haven't seen any of your films."
Wim Wenders with Anne-Katrin Titze on what Pope Francis told him on their first meeting: "I've heard a lot about you. But you have to know, I haven't seen any of your films." Photo: Lisa Rinzler

The reception following the screening was attended by Donata Wenders, Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, Lisa Rinzler (Kent Jones's Hitchcock/Truffaut), Tom Farrell, Ulla Zwicker, Annette Insdorf, Kate Davis, and the moderator for the evening, the incomparable David Schwartz.

"Who is the poorest of the poor?" Pope Francis asks at one point. "Mother Earth" is the answer, who suffers from our maltreatment and what he calls our "culture of waste." By that he means not just the garbage floating in the water but also the one poisoning our minds.

Wim Wenders's film shows how much we need people like Francis. We see the genuine joy on his face when he looks at children's drawings. He addresses the US Congress, where he pronounces in English, slowly, deliberately: "The land of the free and the home of the brave" and there is barely a dry eye in the place.

The insightful and intimate interviews Wenders conducted with the Pope are interspersed with footage of his extensive travels that show the meaning of his words.

Anne-Katrin Titze: Were there moments where he won you over? Where you came in with a different attitude and then he said something and you changed your mind?

‪Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word‬ poster at The Whitby Hotel in New York
‪Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word‬ poster at The Whitby Hotel in New York Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Wim Wenders: I was amazed at some of his answers. I was amazed at the tenderness in some of them. And I was amazed how simple and human his position was and how un-Catholic some times, I felt, and how unbureaucratic and simple and humble. He did win me over. He is really amazing. He is upfront right away.

On our first meeting he just didn't want me to think otherwise, he said … When we first met he put his hand on my shoulder and he said: "I've heard a lot about you. But you have to know, I haven't seen any of your films. Because I've seen a few movies when I was younger and never since. It's not my thing." I was happy because it makes things quite clear. He has other priorities. And actually I'm happy he does.

Wim told the story of how Patti Smith ended up writing a song for Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word.

WW: Patti is an incredible, spiritual person. I did ask her and show her the film before it was finished. It was almost finished and I wanted to have a song at the end. And I figured it had to be Patti. And if she said no, it was just out of the question. So I showed her the film.

She was in Paris, I flew there and I showed her the film. And she was quite overwhelmed and couldn't speak afterwards for a few minutes and was very much taken in. And she said she'd do it. She'd never done anything like this. Written any song on command. So she said "I don't know how long it's going to take." But then she told me a story.

‪Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word‬ reception
‪Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word‬ reception Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Actually I asked her yesterday, if I could tell this story in case I wanted to. She said "Oh, yes, it's a true story. You can tell it." Half a year before the election of the Pope she was in Assisi and she was in a Franciscan monastery that you see in the background [in the film]. It's the central Franciscan monastery of the order.

And she was there for a week and she had dinner every evening with the friars. The same people that we always had dinner with when we were shooting the Saint Francis pictures. They let us shoot in the church and they were very helpful and very excited that we're going to bring Saint Francis to the screen one more time.

So she [Patti] knew all these friars and one evening she said she told them "You don't know it yet, but the next Pope will be called Francis." And then they all laughed. They all laughed and said "This is so impossible, you don't even know what you're talking about." She said, on that night of the election, she and her daughter [Jesse] danced on a table. So she was the right person.

Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word opens today in the US

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