“Francesco,” a comprehensive documentary about Pope Francis with unprecedented access to the The Vatican, will air on Discovery on March 28, to mark the start of Holy Week. The film was directed by Israeli-American filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, who received Oscar and Emmy nominations for 2015’s “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.” “Francesco” premiered at the Rome Film Festival, where Discovery+ acquired it as part of the channel’s ambitious new documentary film slate.
“”From the beginning, I got a green light from The Vatican, I never had any restrictions. I had full freedom,” Afineevsky said during Discovery’s session of the TCA’s ongoing winter press tour.
Though he had no restrictions, the film does not address any right-to-life issues, including abortion access or physician-assisted death.
“It was more important to not focus on the Catholic Church, but to focus on the global issues that are related to humanity, that’s why I tried to tackle more global scale issues and not focus on abortion,” Afineevsky said when asked about the omission. “There are non-stop issues that Pope Francis is tackling — initially the film was 8 hours — that’s why I tried to focus only on essential global issues relating to every human being in the globe and not just to the church.”
The filmmaker was joined by two of the film’s subjects, advocate for survivors of sexual abuse Juan Carlos Cruz; and executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley Sister Norma Pimentel, who works with refugees and immigrants along the Texas border. Both praised Pope Francis for his commitment to human rights issues, and spoke glowingly of being in his presence.
“When he looks at you, you’re the only person that matters. He listens, he looks into your heart, and to me, when I felt my soul was dead and I had nothing to live for, I remember the story in the bible of Lazarus. He resurrected me,” Cruz said. “That’s what Pope Francis does so well, he gives you back your dignity, he makes you a Lazarus, and he instills in you the will to keep on and keep fighting and keep moving and aspire to great things.”