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After Pope Francis news, a renaissance for an Italian film

March 25, 2013|By Steven Zeitchik
  • A scene from Nanni Moretti's "We Have A Pope"
A scene from Nanni Moretti's "We Have A Pope" (IFC Films )

The ongoing interest in all things papal has made for some meaty news coverage. It’s also brought back a movie called “We Have a Pope” to theaters (OK, theater). The Italian-language film, from actor-auteur Nanni Moretti, reopened at New York’s Lincoln Plaza this past weekend, where it tallied $3,500, according to distributor IFC Films.

There’s a reason the film is back on the big screen, Though completed in 2011 and initially released a year ago, its plot is eerily similar to what’s been happening at the Vatican over the past few months, what with the unexpected resignation of Pope Benedict XIV, a quickly convened papal conclave and the naming of the Argentine cardinal who would take the name Pope Francis.

“It’s quite amazing that Nanni could predict so well what’s going to happen only a couple years later considering it’s never happened before, “ Domenico Procacci, one of the film’s producers, said by phone from Rome.

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The film tinkers with the same idea of a pope unsure about whether he wants the job and what happens when the outside world gets a peek, however small, into the veiled workings of the Vatican. Moretti largely  plays it for comedy — the man selected actually tries to escape into the streets of Rome — but filmgoers will have a hard time keeping the news headlines out of mind when they watch it.

Even the climactic scene has relevance to real-world events.

 “The new pope said something very unusual: He asked people to pray for him,” Procacci said. “Normally it’s the opposite. But this is exactly what [our character] says at the end of the film.”

“We Have a Pope” has resonated commercially. After Pope Benedict said he would resign, iTunes immediately put it on its movies page, while Procacci said at least 10,000 DVDs have been sold in Europe. The movie — which Moretti researched independently, without the cooperation of the Vatican, which was initially critical of it before turning silent — also was aired several times on Sky in Italy.

As he has worked on a new project in the past month, Moretti, who Procacci said is not himself religious, has been shy about interviews. “He didn’t want to talk about what happened; he said that ‘I said what I had to in the film,' ” Procacci recalled

But the producer added that the movie’s prescience hasn’t been lost on him or the people who are fans of the film. “There are now a lot of people calling Nanni to congratulate him on getting it right — and to see who will win the soccer championship,” he deadpanned.


Selection of Pope Francis gives movie companies some ideas

Pope Francis, a New World pontiff, faces old challenges

Did 'We Have a Pope' foretell the resignation of Pope Benedict?

Cannes 2011: How will Catholics react to a papal comedy?

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