Evgeny Afineevsky, director of the most in-depth documentary on the Pope: “Francis has a lot of opposition within the Vatican”

Evgeny Afineevsky, director of the documentary on Pope Francis entitled “Francesco” (REUTERS / Guglielmo Mangiapane) (GUGLIELMO MANGIAPANE /)

Homosexual people have the right to be in the family, they are children of God, they have the right to a family. No one can be thrown out of the family, or make life impossible for that (…) What we have to do is a law of civil coexistence. They have the right to be covered legally. I defended that”.

Those words from the Pope Francis they toured the world last year. Appear in Francesco, a documentary by the Oscar nominee Evgeny Afineevsky, a Jewish filmmaker born in the former Soviet Union, which premiered on October 21 at the Rome Film Festival and which arrives in Latin America on December 8 for Discovery. These statements meant a show of acceptance that had been desired for too long, especially by LGBTQ Catholics, alienated by the Church’s anti-gay policy.

“I see Pope Francis as a human being, not only as a Pope and a leader, but as someone who practices humanity, as an ordinary person. Someone who cares for any human being in any part of the world every day ”, explains Afineevsky during a virtual press conference with Latin American media, among which he participates Infobae.

The film represents unprecedented access to the leader of the Catholic Church, and addresses issues such as climate change, migration and refugees, women’s empowerment, sexual abuse and the LGBTQ community and the pandemic. The filmmaker took almost three years to film this film, which for two hours traces Bergoglio’s thoughts and experiences, through his travels, testimonies of personalities and friends and with the common thread the words of the Pope, with which the filmmaker met five times and twice in front of the camera.

In addition to an unpublished access to the Pope, the documentary features interviews with those who have been part of his journey, including his nephew. Jose Ignacio Bergoglio, the emeritus Benedict XVIas well as sister Norma Pimentel, defender of refugees, and Juan Carlos Cruz, victim and activist for the rights of survivors of sexual abuse in Chile. The latter is perhaps one of the most prominent voices.

In 2018, Francisco did not believe victims of sexual abuse by priests in Chile. “The day they bring me evidence against the bishop [Juan] Barros (accused of covering up cases of sexual abuse of minors), I’m going to talk there “, had said. There is not a single proof against it, everything is slander”. Later had to apologize, received the victims in Rome and made the Chilean bishops resign.

“Juan Carlos never gave up despite all the obstacles, all the difficulties,” says the director about the Chilean victim whom he now considers his friend.

“They asked me what is the most important moment of this movie. And I guess it’s sexual abuse, because as much as I tried not to hit the Church in this movie – because I’m talking about the world, I’m talking about being human – I try to focus on the voices of innocence that need to be heard and specifically in the area of ​​sexual abuse, because it is something that people need to hear and see. Sexual abuse brought the law that Covering up is the same crime as the abuse itself, and I think, by bringing in lay people, he tried to break this institutional ‘brotherhood’ thing because they can’t cover each other. It’s a crime”.

Evgeny Afineevsky and Pope Francis
Evgeny Afineevsky and Pope Francis

-Pope Francis admitted a “Serious mistake” by not believing at first the Chilean victims of sexual abuse. Also, in his documentary, he showed his support for civil unions between people of the same sex. How has all this been seen by people in the Vatican itself?

-You know, he does not consider himself progressive, he considers himself conservative but revolutionary in terms of the aspects that you are mentioning right now. I will tell you that it has a lot of opposition. I may not be allowed to say that, but it is what I witnessed as a documentarian. There is opposition, there is fear of change on the part of many cardinals of losing power, of losing the control they had during all these centuries, and I think what Francis is trying to do is try to bring the revolution to this institution. I think that is the approach he has as a Jesuit who has been all his life on the streets of Buenos Aires, in the world. For him, this is a really important element, bringing the Church to the service of the people, and himself to the service of humanity.

Because, Sexual abuse and civil union issues are really important, because as he told me many times in a simple way: “Yes, I am Pope. But I am a priest. So I care about every human being regardless of their skin color, their religious beliefs, whether they are a believer or not, their sexual orientation. Each and every person is a child of God, so I need to protect them. ” So that is your belief and you are trying to serve Humanity as a whole.

Afineevsky’s documentary work has been characterized by offering first-hand accounts of the conflicts, even if this meant putting his own life at risk. Based in Los Angeles, United States, he was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary in 2016 with Winter on fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom on the Maidan revolution, and three Emmys per Cries from Syria in 2017.

“Considering two of my previous films in Ukraine and Syria, I think I needed inspiration after so much darkness,” he recounted on the reason why he decided to portray the Supreme Pontiff. “And this is how I see the Pope: as someone who can help bring hope, love, humanity, inspire us to do good things. I am not Catholic, I am Jewish and I did not change my faith because I was close to Pope Francis for three years. I mean humble human leadership. I think this documentary means a lot to me because it was a personal healing. We are at a point right now where we need to rethink everything. And to rethink we have to see what we need to change ”.

documentary Francesco
“He’s trying to do something for the world every day, not just for the Church,” said the director (Discovery)

-This week Francisco said that migrants were being used and exploited “Like pawns on a political chessboard”. On Francesco, refers to their migrant blood. Do you think that migration is perhaps the issue that most mobilizes you?

-Definitely the biggest problem, for him and me. I am an immigrant. I was born in Russia, I emigrated to Israel, and then to the United States. So I think you are right. He said “tomorrow it can be you, because you never know what might happen”. And from all my observations as a filmmaker and conversations with him, I was able to verify that it is a very close topic for him, like climate change, and I would tell you even more. It will soon embark for Cyprus and Greece, from where it will head to Lesbos. Then he will bring many refugees to Italy. So he is not a person who speaks, he is the person who does things, and that is the remarkable thing about Jorge Bergoglio. As an Argentine you know that Argentina is the place where many people from many parts of the world went. Every time I meet people in Argentina they tell you that their parents came from another place, and it’s interesting.

-What do you think makes you a suitable leader for this generation?

-That he is not speaking in front of the camera about things. He’s doing things and I think that’s what makes him a leader. He is trying to do something for the world every day, not just for the Church. Whether it’s talking about climate change or about refugees or trying to resolve conflicts. I will never forget how in April 2019 in Santa Marta he received leaders from Sudan and said: “Please, I beg you to stop this bloodshed by innocent people. If you want to fight, fight behind closed doors, but in front of the people, hold hands and be the fathers of the nation. And then Francisco walked up to each of these leaders and knelt down and kissed their feet. There he would be about 83 or 84 years old. That’s him: a humble world leader who tries to care about every human being. I witnessed many things as a documentarian that will probably stay with me forever. Despite all the criticism and everything, he is still there.

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