As AFI Fest 2019 Presented by Audi draws to a close, it is time to thank the festival and it’s press office for allowing me to attend and report on the festival. I also want to thank the countless volunteers who helped to make the festival run smoothly and make sure I got in the right line when it was time to do so.
I am one of many people who has enjoyed Oliver Sacks’s books about various neurological maladies. Oliver Sachs: His Own Life is a documentary by Ric Burns. Burns was given very important access to Sacks in his final months before dying in 2015. The film tells of his life, his struggles (which include drugs and coming to grips with being gay). Above all, though, it paints him as a man who was amazingly empathetic and curious about people—especially patients with various neurological problems. He says that he always wanted to know what it was like to be another sentient being—to be another human being. That empathy is what made his books such a joy to read. When I read them, it was not just seeing some strange person or their illness; it was a chance to learn what it was like to be them as they lived with their malady—or in some cases, their gift.
In Corpus Christi from director Jan Komasa, Daniel is paroled out of the juvenile penal system and sent to work at a sawmill in a distant town. When he arrives, instead of reporting to work, he goes to the church to pray. When asked, he says he is a priest. He has a clergy collar and is taken to meet the local vicar. When the vicar becomes sick the next day, he asks Daniel to fill in for him a few days. Daniel has served as an altar boy, and would like to become a priest, but his conviction prevents him from going to seminary. Soon he’s hearing confession, presiding at mass, giving last rites and all the other things priests may have to do. In time, of course, his past will catch up with him. What I found interesting about the film is that even while knowing what he was doing was wrong, Daniel strove to do what was right. He applies the kind of tactics the chaplain in his facility had used to help the villagers work through grief and anger stemming from a traffic accident that killed several young people. At times we also see the awe that Daniel feels as he realizes what he is being called to do. While some may think it is anti-church in saying there is nothing special about the priesthood, it does serve as a reminder of the idea of the priesthood of all believers. Corpus Christi is Poland’s official Oscar submission for International Feature. It will open in the US in the spring of 2020.