More than any of his recent predecessors, Pope Francis has done a good job of humanizing the position of pontiff. He is humble, has a sense of humor, and tries to use his position to actively help those less fortunate. But we never thought he’d be the host of a Netflix documentary series, but the end of 2021 has made that notion come true.
STORIES OF A GENERATION – WITH POPE FRANCIS: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening shot: “VATICAN CITY.” Pope Francis enters a room where camera and lighting equipment are installed, greets everyone, and sits down to be interviewed for the program.
The essence: Stories of a Generation – With Pope Francis is based on the current pontiff’s book Sharing the wisdom of time and produced by Stand By Me Productions. It’s a collection of segments in which filmmakers under the age of 30 talk to people over the age of 70 about their extraordinary and inspiring lives.
The episodes are theme-based and the first is “Love.” As each story is told, the Pope talks about what he thinks love is all about, be it romantic love or a father’s love for a son. For example, love is play; he feels that playing with his children is where love is shown. Nor does a father become a father when he has a child; they become parents when they influence a child to help him grow and develop as a person.
Among those profiled is Martin Scorsese, who is in Oklahoma on the set of a movie (Killers of the flower moon!). His 22-year-old daughter Francesca tells him how he met his current wife, Helen Morris, at the end of his life, and how he regrets having had a job before taking care of Francesca’s older stepsisters. Jane Goodall is also profiled; she talks about how her methods of communicating with chimpanzees were frowned upon by the scientific community, even though they were some of the most effective methods of the time.
Also featured: Estela Barnes de Carlotto, whose eldest daughter was kidnapped by supporters of Argentine fascism in the 1970s and murdered after giving birth to a kidnapped son; Vito Fiorino, who helped rescue drowning refugees off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy in 2013; and Cristina and Carlos Solís, who have found a late bond by embracing tango.
What shows will it remind you of? It is difficult to pin down what Stories of a generation it remind us. Yes, there have been documentaries on how to inspire older people. Young heart comes to mind, but none presented by the Pope.
Our Take: Stories of a Generation – With Pope Francis It is not designed to be controversial or to surprise. It is exclusively designed to inspire. It does that job pretty well. But what it really does is give Pope Francis as great a platform as we’ve seen to show his humanity, something he has tried to do since he ascended to the papacy in 2013.
Sure, his interstitials were filled with observations that the most cynical among us (and we count ourselves in that category) can scoff at. “What does the Pope know about romantic love or parenthood?” We are wondering. But priests around the world have been mentoring parents and couples for millennia, so their experience can be gleaned from decades of supporting parishioners. So if we take it at face value, the cynicism goes away a bit.
But in other segments, Francis talks about his grandmother, and how he used to tango all the time, and talks about how Scorsese just wanted him to bless his wife when they met a few years ago, given that she was beginning a physical decline. which continues today. “This deserves more awards than his films, which are excellent,” he says. So… has the Pope seen Scorsese’s movies? He saw The last temptation of Christ? Is he a good friends fan? Just hearing him say that he is a fan of the director’s films makes us curious to see a documentary series about the Pope’s favorite films.
The profiles themselves could have benefited from being less segmented than they were; director Simona Ercolani decided to intersperse between segments throughout an episode rather than profile one at a time. And although it could have been calculated that Scorsese left the door to attract the American public, her story was not as inspiring as that of De Carlotto, who started a group of mothers who went through the tragedies that she suffered, or Fiorino, who considers some of the children he rescued to be a family and remains in close contact with them. We love Scorsese too, but his work pales in importance in comparison to many of the others depicted in this series.
Sex and skin: None. We mentioned that the Pope hosts this show, right?
Farewell shot: Francis teases the next episode, which is about “Dreams.” He calls a person who does not dream “a sterile person. And sterility is fine for operating rooms, but not for life. “
Sleeping star: Yes, we are making Pope Francis the sleeping star, for the reasons we mentioned above. We are still imagining it with a bowl of popcorn broadcasting the 3.5 hours of the Irish in the Sistine Chapel.
Most of the Pilot-y line: We might have wanted to hear from Scorsese’s other daughters, but we never got that chance.
Our calling: STREAM IT. Stories of a Generation – With Pope Francis It’s not designed to surprise you with twists and turns, but the stories are inspiring, the cinematography is breathtaking, and the glimpses we get of the pontiff’s humanity are more than enough to watch the show when you have a spare hour here and there.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting, and technology, but he’s not fooling himself: he’s a television junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and other places.