VATICAN CITY (RNS) — A new documentary titled “The Letter,” directed by Emmy-winner Nicholas Brown, premiered at the Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 4). The letter of the title is Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Sì, addressed to “all people of good will” and urging an interconnected vision for humanity and the planet.
Brown, who has directed many environment-focused documentaries, voiced his hope that the movie will encourage people to “abandon illusions of otherness and come together” to protect the environment.
The premiere on Tuesday took place on the day of the feast of the pope’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, who was known for his commitment to peace, to the impoverished and to the environment. It also coincided with the day the Paris Climate Agreement accords, which the Holy See signed this summer, come into effect at the Vatican.
But rather than the policy decisions of those in power, the 80-minute feature focuses on how people at the grassroots level can bring about change. In the movie, a diverse group of climate activists, Indigenous people, scientists and faithful meet with Pope Francis to dialogue about the environment.
“Voices from the peripheries are usually ignored in global summits and environmental decision-making, typically dominated by powerful corporate interests,” said Cardinal Michael Czerny, who heads the Vatican Department for Promoting Integral Human Development, during a press conference presenting the movie at the Vatican on Tuesday.
“The film and the personal stories powerfully show that the ecological crisis has arrived and is happening now. The time is over for speculation, for skepticism and denial, for irresponsible populism,” the cardinal added. The movie will be available to audiences for free on YouTube and dubbed in Spanish, Italian, Portuguese and French.
Among the cast of climate activists who are represented in the movie is Chief Cacique Odair “Dadá” of the Borari people, who live in the lush Amazonian jungles in Brazil. The Indigenous leader was captured and tortured by mercenaries after he used GPS technology to expose the illegal activity of loggers who were destroying his home.
Under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil has seen a rapid deforestation of the Amazon forest, and elections in the country were underway at the time of the premiere. “I am here in the name of the forest, in the name of the Indigenous population,” said Chief Dadá at the Vatican press conference, where he advocated for “a new kind of politics” that protects the environment and those most affected by its destruction.
“Today we suffer the destruction of the forest firsthand,” he said. “I hope that all presidents in all countries will come together to save and protect the forest.”