Feature film from Oscar-winning producers offers unseen glimpses of Pope Francis’ personal story and creates pressure for global climate justice by highlighting unheard voices on the frontlines of the crisis.
A new feature documentary film on humanity’s power to stop the ecological crisis was released at a global premiere in Vatican City today. Entitled The Letter, the film tells the story of diverse frontline leaders’ journeys to Rome to discuss the encyclical Laudato Si’ with Pope Francis.
The film is produced by Oscar-winning producers Off the Fence (My Octopus Teacher). Featuring protagonists from the Brazilian Amazon, Senegal, India, and the U.S., the film explores issues including Indigenous rights, climate migration, and youth leadership in the context of action on climate and nature. The film features an exclusive dialogue with Pope Francis and previously unseen footage of his installation as pope.
Film premiere events in the Vatican included the protagonists and filmmakers, the Vatican’s top official on ecological issues, and the secretary general of the IPCC, along with ambassadors and representatives of civil society.
The film is presented by YouTube Originals. This is the first time that a film with a Pope will be available free of charge through a streaming service.
The premiere comes on the same day as the Holy See’s official entry into the landmark Paris agreement on climate change. Vatican officials hosted ambassadors to the Holy See at both the premiere and a high-level side event about the Paris Agreement, building pressure on governments for more climate action.
These efforts represent the Catholic Church’s increasingly ambitious and urgent engagement on ecological issues. A global campaign of community screenings, high-level events, and leadership from partner organizations in the global North and the global South is anticipated over the next months, galvanizing new pressure on decision-makers at the UN’s COP27 climate summit and COP15 nature summit.
This urgency aligns with alarms from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the climate science body that informs the Paris agreement and COP27. In remarks about the film, the IPCC Chair attending the Vatican events, Dr. Hoesung Lee, said “The scientific community welcomes the opportunity to engage with artists and the people of faith.”
Ridhima Pandey, a young climate activist and a protagonist of The Letter, said “The adults must do better. And I’m not waiting for you to fix it. Trust me, my efforts have just begun.”
Nicolas Brown, director of The Letter, said, “Guided by the moral compass provided by Pope Francis, I expect we all might find a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to protecting our common home and having compassion for all living things, including each other.”
About the film
Produced by Oscar-winning team Off the Fence (My Octopus Teacher) in partnership with Laudato Si’ Movement, the film was directed by Emmy-winning director Nicolas Brown. The Letter was made in collaboration with the Dicastery for Communication and the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. The film is presented by YouTube Originals.
Brief biographies and cleared photos of the protagonists including Pope Francis are here. Photos of protagonists and high-level leaders attending the Vatican events will be available here at 19.00 CEST on 4 October.
A press conference will take place at 11.30 CEST on 4 October in Sala Stampa with the following speakers:
- Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development
- Dr. Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
- Cacique Odair “Dadá” Borari, a protagonist of the film and Chief-General of the Maró Indigenous Territory, Pará, Brazil
- Dr. Lorna Gold, President of the Board, Laudato Si’ Movement
- Nicolas Brown, writer and director, The Letter
Vatican-accredited journalists are welcome.
Those who are not accredited but who would like to attend in person, please contact Gabriel López Santamaria at email@example.com by 3 October at 12.00 CEST.
For journalists who are not in Rome, the press conference will be live-streamed, available here starting at 11.30 CEST.
Ambassadors to the Holy See, scientists, media executives, Church leaders, and representatives of civil society will attend a screening of the film in the Vatican’s Synod Hall.
Doors open and a photo call will take place at 17.30 CEST. The film begins at 18.30 CEST. A reception follows the film.
Registration is required to attend. Journalists who are interested in attending please register here.
The film’s protagonists, Cardinal Czerny, Secretary Lee, and director Nicolas Brown are available for interviews and photos in person just after the press conference, from approximately 12.30 to 13.30 in Sala Stampa.
Written interviews are available before the press conference. Please send questions to Gabriel López Santamaria at firstname.lastname@example.org by 2 October at 12.00 CEST.
Comments from spokespeople are available.
- Laudato Si’ Movement: please contact Gabriel López Santamaria at email@example.com.
- Off the Fence Productions: please contact Nicolas Brown, Writer and Director, The Letter, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Statements from leaders, protagonists, and filmmaker
Cardinal Michael Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said “In his encyclical Laudato Si’, Pope Francis wishes to enter into dialogue with all people about planet Earth, our common home. The environmental crisis is not an issue for Catholics alone. It affects everyone, now and future generations. This film is a clarion cry to people everywhere: we have to act together, and we have to do so now.”
Dr. Hoesung Lee, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said “The challenge of climate change is global and the science is clear. The time for action is now.” Dr. Lee continued, “The scientific community welcomes the opportunity to engage with artists and the people of faith. Both faith and art hold a great convening power and can inspire genuine collective climate action.”
Dr. Lorna Gold, president of Laudato Si’ Movement, said “Signs of the ecological catastrophe are all around, and yet we still fail to take notice. This beautiful, thought-provoking film brings home the tragic consequences of inaction, but it also points to the way forward. Through this film, we went way beyond the things that seem to separate us as people from such different backgrounds. We discovered that what unites us is a sense of shared humanity, of being one family. That gives me hope for our common home.”
Dr. Greg Asner, director of Arizona State University’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science and co-author of the Spectranomics technology to create 3D maps of biodiversity, said “Science shows that the planet is changing too rapidly for much of life to keep up. From catastrophic ocean heatwaves to droughts on land, the Earth is telling us over and over that we have pushed our planet too far. We’ve got to turn concern into rapid action. It’s not only the plants and animals that are at risk – we too depend on the planet and its biodiversity to survive and thrive.”
Cacique Odair “Dadá” Borari, Chief-General of the Maró Indigenous Territory, Pará, said “Protecting the Amazon and its people is what I do. I do this every day and I have been doing it for decades. The people who want to destroy the Amazon have attacked me, but I will not quit. I protect the land of my ancestors and the spirit of life within it. But this struggle is not mine alone. Protecting the Amazon is up to all of us.
Mr. Arouna Kandé, climate refugee and student in sustainable development, said “My family in Senegal didn’t do anything to cause the drought in our village or the floods in the city. As this film makes clear, we live with the choices that other people made. But the future is coming, it is mine and I will lead it well. I am studying in university, planting trees, and trying to help my village develop sustainably. Senegal has the creativity and ingenuity to lead the future more fairly. I will be part of that, and I will do better than was done to me.”
Ms Ridhima Pandey, young climate activist, said “For my generation, seeing the landscape change beyond belief has become almost commonplace. As a child I had nightmares about the extreme flooding in my country. I am worried about these nightmares becoming the lived reality for children in India. And now the heatwaves are coming on top of the flooding. We young people are saying that enough is enough. The adults must do better. And I’m not waiting for you to fix it. Trust me, my efforts have just begun.”
Dr. Robin Martin, professor at Arizona State University and co-author of the Spectranomics technology to create 3D maps of biodiversity, said “When I met Pope Francis while we were making this film, I gave him a cowry shell inside a koa wood box, all of it from my home island of Hawaii. The cowry, leho in Hawaiian, is a symbol of protection and was also used as currency and even a simple snack that could sustain you on a journey along the shoreline. The koa tree is the largest of the native trees in Hawaiʻi and sought after for building canoes for traveling. Nature isn’t only something to study. All things have a beauty, history and purpose to be treasured and valued in their own right.”
Mr. Nicolas Brown, director of The Letter, said, “Tackling the twin issues of climate change and biodiversity loss is the gravest challenge mankind has ever faced. It is easy to lose hope. But today I am filled with new excitement because of the individuals who came together to make “The Letter”. I bet that their stories will inspire you as they have me! And guided by the moral compass provided by Pope Francis, I expect we all might find a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to protecting our common home and having compassion for all living things, including each other.”
Media contact: Gabriel López Santamaria, email@example.com