Pope's Movie Involvement Helps Reach Periphery, Says Filmmaker

Pope Francis is set to be featured in an upcoming movie based on the Gospels called “Beyond the Sun” — the Holy Father’s latest foray into modern culture which one veteran Catholic moviemaker sees as a worthy attempt to reach out and evangelize the periphery.

Christian Peschken, who spent 19 years in Hollywood producing and directing movies starring, among others, Martin Sheen, Rod Steiger and Scott Glenn, welcomed the news, telling the Register he didn’t know of any pope in his lifetime "who has reached out, with such enormous mass appeal, into areas of society and culture that have almost always been a taboo within the Church — dark areas such as the entertainment industry and the Reformed churches.” News of the film venture came less than a week after the Pope met Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio at the Vatican.

Initial reports suggested Pope Francis would be the first pope to actually star in a motion picture, but this was downplayed by the Vatican. The prefect of the Secretariat for Communications, Monsignor Dario Edoardo Viganò, said the Pope “will not play himself” and “is not an actor”, adding that no scenes for the movie were filmed “for purpose”.

He said it was possible that “video clips of the Pope could appear in the film” which has “happened before.”

But the misrepresentation aside, Peschken, a convert to the Catholic Church, said “it’s a good thing the Pope does such things — he’s very popular and should take advantage of that, even if people misunderstand him, or take him hostage for their own purposes.” He has no doubt the reports that the Pope would be starring in “Beyond the Sun” were part of a “PR stunt”.

Pius XII had a cameo role in the 1958 film “Embezzled Heaven”, the story of a cook in a noble Austrian family who thinks primarily of ways to get to Heaven. Pontiffs have also allowed clips of them to appear in motion pictures, such as Pope St. John Paul II in the 1981 biopic “From a Far Country” by Krzysztof Zanussi.

Peschken, who now runs the Pax Press Agency out of Geneva which contributes to EWTN programming, is currently working on a project to turn the book “Bergoglio’s List” — an account of then-Father Jorge Bergoglio’s efforts to save dozens of people from the brutal Argentine dictatorship of the 1970s — into a motion picture.

The German movie maker said he has the film option rights to the book and is hoping to obtain funding soon.

Photo: Edward Pentin/NCRegister.com