Building a Table: “Stories of a Generation – with Pope Francis”

Brad Miner | February 15, 2022

I’ve written enough promotional copy in my career to know it would be silly of me to laugh at the blurb for the new Netflix documentary Stories of a Generation, featuring Pope Francis, about folks like me: “In candid and heartwarming stories, inspiring women and men over 70 share poignant life lessons and pivotal choices from their remarkable journeys.”

Laugh, no; chuckle, maybe.

Begin with the fact that such a congeries of interviews is highly selective: both in who was interviewed and, of course, in their edited responses. Everybody is on his or her best behavior. By that I mean that some subjects, known to be cantankerous (e.g., Martin Scorsese), are here all smiles before the camera.

There is no depression and little anger: mostly sweetness and light, and phrases such as “So, if we could all just learn to love and to respect, the world would be a very different place.” Jane Goodall, the primatologist, says that, which is fine. She has no power over your life. But in one way or another it’s what Xi Jinping dictates: to the people of Hong Kong (and to China’s Christians and Muslims; well, not the Muslims – them he puts in concentration camps), and even Ms. Goodall, shown in Stories of a Generation leading an American crowd in a closed-fist chant of “Together we can! Together we will!,” is given to unpleasant stridency. Most activists are.

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