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New Documentary on St. John Paul II Premieres


A new documentary illustrating how St. John Paul II was a driving force in liberating Central and Eastern Europe from communist rule, inspiring a “revolution of conscience” that was pivotal in the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989, made its national debut on Dec. 6 with a special screening at the Copernicus Center in Chicago, a cultural hub for the city’s large Polish community. In attendance were Robert Rusiecki, deputy consul general of Poland in Chicago; Larysa Gerasko, consul general of Ukraine in Chicago; and Marijus Gudynas, consul general of Lithuania in Chicago.

Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism had its TV premiere the following night on WTTW in Chicago. The film generated a high rating for the PBS member station and will be distributed nationally by PBS this coming March.

Narrated by actor Jim Caviezel and featuring original music by renowned composer Joe Kraemer (Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Jack Reacher), the documentary features rare archival footage and exclusive interviews with former Polish president and Solidarity founder Lech Wałęsa; papal biographer George Weigel; John Paul’s lifelong assistant, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, archbishop of Kraków; Richard Allen, Ronald Reagan’s National Security advisor; and numerous others.

“The spiritual dynamic that John Paul II brought behind the Iron Curtain was absolutely essential in the liberation of the continent,” said Carl Anderson, the film’s executive producer and CEO of the Knights of Columbus.

“We often think of political or economic forces changing history, but John Paul II understood that men and women live and die for great ideas. They live and die in defense of human dignity, and therefore, he was essential to this new birth of freedom on the European continent,” he added. Anderson worked closely with John Paul II as both head of the Knights of Columbus and during his service as a White House official under President Ronald Reagan.

The 90-minute film chronicles Karol Wojtyła’s remarkable rise from an underground seminarian and amateur playwright to cardinal archbishop of Kraków. Further, it brings to light how Wojtyła’s ascension to the papacy in 1978 struck fear in the heart of the Soviet Politburo. As archbishop, Wojtyła developed tools for resistance to communist rule that were grounded in defense of human rights and the reclaiming of Poland’s Catholic identity. Historians and journalists, with access to recently declassified KGB documents, help to illustrate the vast Soviet campaign to counteract John Paul II’s moral crusade. The documentary follows the wave of free thought that swept through the Soviet bloc as a result of the pope’s epic nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in June 1979.

“John Paul II sowed the seeds that would later give birth to the Solidarity movement,” said Anderson. “Without his spiritual support Solidarity’s success would not have been possible, and without Solidarity you do not have the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Revolution of ’89.”

A national TV distribution in the United States and a theatrical distribution in Poland is planned for spring 2016.

For more information about the film, visit jp2film.com.