Netflix’s Stories of a Generation is a highly inspirational and original form of storytelling that lifts your spirit with one of the most influential voices. At the age of 85, Pope Francis (born Jorge Mario Bergoglio) explains four fundamental concepts that are permanently consistent in our lives. The concepts explored in Stories of a Generation with Pope Francis are love, dreams, struggle, and work.
While the series is based on Pope Francis’s book, the narrative is designed to bridge two generations, as filmmakers under the age of 30 interview and listen to the stories of people aged 70 and above. Here, they document and tell their stories to inspire millions. One would think this is a documentary, but it is not. It is the purest form of storytelling. With a sparkle in his eye, Pope Francis captivates you. He takes you on a journey. Overlooking many struggles of humanity, or maybe even flying with some.
Pope Francis and His Friends Talk About Love
We know Pope Francis to be the most powerful man in the spiritual world, yet we haven’t been privy to his personal side. Before we talk about his friends, let’s first understand our speaker. Netflix teams up with Stand By Me Productions, a group of under-30 filmmakers, to enter Vatican City, sit with Pope Francis, and question him about life. Pope Francis is of Argentine nationality and chose the name Francis as his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, an Italian Catholic friar, deacon, and mystic. His current papacy reflects progressive views and values, unlike the intrinsic nature of the Roman Catholic Church.
A man often in his day-to-day life goes to work, faces his own challenges, goes through his own struggles, and ends up dreaming. But the question arises: are these facets essential to humanity? Pope Francis says yes, it is. He explains it in his own words and says that the answer could be found by merely observing the journeys of the people. With these stories, we understand that these concepts are necessary survival mechanisms to aid warriors in their life journey. Some have survived Aleppo; some have stayed determined to jump from planes regardless of their age.
In his first episode, Pope Francis explains love as the “freedom of play.” One of his friends, Martin Scorsese, sits before his 22-year-old daughter Francesca and tells her how he met his current wife, Helen Morris. The amalgamation of the concept of love with a deeper meaning makes Pope Francis reminisce about his relationship with his grandmother. While his grandmother was suffering, there was love in her silence, and never once did the Pope ever feel that it was not present. But not understanding her struggle and pain, Pope Francis tells us the story of Estela Barnes De Carlotto, a 90-year old lady in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She had her daughter taken away only to see her next in a coffin.
The Pontiff begins to explain the real meaning of fatherhood. It is a feeling that is inculcated and not a title to claim, after which we connect to Vito Fiorino, a 72-year-old ice cream maker from Lampedusa in Italy. One night, he and his 7 friends witnessed 200 people on a boat screaming for help. His youngest rescue was 13 years old. While this confused him since he believed he was not good with children, this boy grew up to make Vito meet his father, and Vito knew this was a milestone achieved in this relationship.
As the narrative moves ahead, we learn of one Carlos Solis, an ophthalmologist aged 84. His wife, Christina Castelara, married for 44 years with four daughters and six grandchildren, shares an intimate Tango dance twice a week. The Pontiff believes that Tango is a dance of hope and that it reminds him of old times. He says that he’s done it. And like the couple, he probably would still want to do it. Does age ever really matter? (Shh… Don’t tell anyone, though! Anyone has moonlight to shine on him ?)
Learning of Jane Goodhall, aged 87 years old, and talking about her experience with the apes, we see that love exists between all beings, known or unknown. Her research reflects her documented methods for understanding chimps, which were frowned upon by the scientific community. While the Pontiff explains love to be that of closeness, we return to Scorsese’s story of how he cares for his wife, Helen. He met Pope Francis to tell him that his primary concern was his wife, nothing else.
Pope Francis and His Friends Share Stories of Dreams
The narrative moves to make us understand the nature of dreams. Pope Francis explains that not dreaming is like being sterile, which is good for operation theatres but bad for life. Overlooking a photograph of him and his brother, Pope Francis mentions that he was a dreamer and expressed it by writing poetry.
In the U.S. state of Virginia, we meet a lady, Betty Kilby Fisher Baldwin, aged 76 years old, whose family was enslaved. Her case brought about school desegregation in Virginia. Fighting nightmares of her descendancy from an enslaved past, she meets a descendant of a family that enslaved black people and then understands how to forgive. In Wellington, New Zealand, we learn of David C. Lowe, aged 75 years old, a current Nobel Laureate for discovering carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. All his life David had no aims whatsoever, but he believed in his dreams. This discovery set him on a journey to discover his purpose in life.
In Barcelona, Spain, we learn of Montserrat Mecho Cunillera, aged 88, an avid freestyle parachute jumper and windsurfer who has jumped everywhere, even over the forests of Finland. As a Spanish champion in springboard diving, her husband asked for a divorce because the sport was frowned upon at the time.
In Colonia Puriscalena, Costa Rica, we met Danilo Mena Hernandez, aged 70 years old. After losing his wife, he is left with his two sons. Pope Francis mentions that the elderly often go through this feeling of nostalgia.
Pope Francis and His Friends Share the Concept Of Struggle
To understand this concept better, the story of Sthembiso and Omar Badshah is shown parallelly. Omar Badshah, who was a journalist, took a stand against racism and, in turn, united South Africa. But it is his journey with a photograph of Sthembiso, a revolutionary of Apartheid, that changes his perceptions towards life. Omar travels to return this picture of Sthembiso, who fought in Apartheid, to his family in Durban. Sthembiso had requested Omar to give his picture to his family in case anything happened to him. Since Sthembiso never returned, Omar decides to honor Sthembiso’s wishes.
In Hawaii, we learn of a surfer, Filipe Omar. A lone Peruvian who surfed the largest wave and won a World Championship. While experiencing the fear of a wave that Filipe had, Pope Francis explains that fear is an emotion to have a dialogue with and not to run away from.
Fear is an emotion that makes the body freeze but contradictory to this, some experience the will to survive through this. We understand this better through the stories of Giselle, who makes a home for herself in Beirut after surviving the war in Aleppo, still remaining a refugee till she dies. To survive in the chaos of fear is also the story of Austra Bertha Flores, 88 years old, who moved up the political ladder to become a deputy in the National Congress. She was deeply disturbed when her youngest daughter, Berta Caceres, was assassinated for protesting against land grabbing and the abusive economic power that the government used at the time. Berta seeks justice to date for her murder.
Pope Francis and His Friends Share Their Concept of Work
Pope Francis further explains that struggle comes from many things. It is necessary to remain non-static and inspire oneself to move forward. He explains that working is necessary to make yourself worthwhile. To understand his perspective on work, we meet Nike Okundaye, an African female artist aged 70 years old. She has created more than 100 artworks. Her work gives her independence. She is married to one husband and 14 wives. She lived with two wives in her room. A midwife named Palaconi delivered the Pope along with his four brothers. She celebrated her 5000th birth when the Pope was 17 years old.
We learn of a gentleman from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, a shoemaker named Trinh Ngoc, aged 90 years old. He made shoes for the King of Cambodia. When the coup happened in 1970, 29 arrests were made, and he was the last survivor. Pope Francis says a craftsman puts his soul into his work, making it a gift to the universe. In Jerusalem, Israel, we meet a chef who cooks food based on recipes from the Bible for his clients in his restaurant.
Executive Producer and Director Simona Ercolani brings us a highly inspirational interview with Pope Francis. These conversations preach that a generation must be open to learning, understanding, and inculcating values from the older generation as it is surely going to bring about a change in their lifestyle and belief systems. As icons of resilience, Pope Francis and his friends stand firm in their stance to change the world. If you have a confession, come to this series. Who better to put you at ease, than the Pope himself.
Stories of a Generation with Pope Francis is a social and cultural four-part limited Docuseries based on the book ‘Sharing the Wisdom of Time with Pope Francis and Friends’, made by Stand By Me Productions with Netflix. It delves deep into the journeys of people above 70 years old to inspire the younger generation, learning to thrive in a challenging modern world.