Pope Francis is making a new Discovery.
Discovery+ has acquired Evgeny Afineevsky’s documentary Francesco, an exploration of the 84-year-old leader of the Catholic Church’s ministry and moral leadership in a time of surging right-wing populist movements, a worldwide refugee crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Discovery+ will begin streaming Francesco globally on Sunday, March 28, the start of Holy Week, which leads up to Easter on April 4.
“It is an honor to host the global premiere of Francesco on Discovery+, spotlighting an intimate look at one of the world’s most beloved and influential leaders, Pope Francis,” said Lisa Holme, group SVP of content and commercial strategy at Discovery, in a statement. “We are thrilled to work with a powerful storyteller like Evgeny on this important project, which is emblematic of our ability to expand our documentary programming aperture on Discovery+ to serve subscribers around the world with a diverse and growing slate of originals.”
Afineevsky earned an Oscar nomination for his 2015 documentary Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom.
For Francesco, he spent three years traveling the world to highlight some of the issues Pope Francis has made it his mission to address, including the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, the Syrian civil war, global warming and interfaith dialogue. The director spent one-on-one time not only with the pontiff but with his predecessor, retired Pope Benedict XVI.
“I am tremendously honored that Pope Francis allowed me to witness and create this inspirational monument dedicated to the most pressing issues facing humanity today,” Afineevsky said. “His commitment to people around the world will lead us out of this difficult historical moment and into a brighter future. He is a beacon of light in this world for many and strives every day to enlighten people on how to build a bridge to a better tomorrow. It is extremely exciting to partner with discovery+ to bring his story to people around the world on the same day.”
Francesco premiered at the Rome Film Festival last October, where it made worldwide headlines for a moment in the film in which the pontiff appeared to endorse civil unions for gay people, a break from Vatican policy. The documentary also delves into the pope’s handling of the sexual abuse scandal that has damaged the Catholic Church’s moral authority.
“I wanted to give a voice to the victims of sexual abuse,” Afineevsky told Deadline last fall, noting that Pope Francis’s response to the scandal evolved over time, from defender of some prelates accused of misconduct to becoming a supporter of victims. “I wanted to show how the [pope] can [make] mistakes. How the person can investigate them, admit the mistakes. And take not only responsibility, but immediately take actions.”
Francesco was produced by Afineevsky-Tolmor Production with the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.