«Is there anyone you wouldn’t talk to?» a woman in the audience of a packed-out Warsaw auditorium asks the lecturing priest, adding that there is much debate over whether one should attempt to communicate with nationalists. Father Boniecki, 85 years of age and with popularity in liberal circles approaching the level of celebrity, responds that, in his religious role or simply as an old man, he’d say there’s never anybody one shouldn’t speak with; that a huge transformation of their thinking is unlikely to result, but the «seed of doubt» that might be sown makes it worthwhile to connect. It’s an answer that says much of his character, and the way in which he practices his station: with a gentle, infectious warmth, but also an acute sensitivity to human failings and despair that draws him toward the social margins and the existentially lost as those most in need of healing. A given for a priest, one might suppose. But Father Boniecki laments that in current-day Poland many Catholic leaders, or God’s «earthly staff» as he calls them, have forgotten that the foundation of Christianity lies in such wide compassion.
Director Aleksandra Potoczek’s documentary portrait xABo: Father Boniecki, screening at Krakow Film Festival, does not delve far into the socio-political backdrop against which Father Boniecki goes about his role — namely the recent sweep to power of the populist-right, anti-migrant and anti-LGBT Law and Justice party, which clings tightly to the Church. Controversy frequently flares up …
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