Palm Beach Gardens
Those who lived through the Cold War years or studied it in school will know that President Ronald Reagan and Saint John Paul II were major characters in the sociopolitical drama unfolding on the world stage. What they might not know, is that the president and the pope bonded over a profound connection to their religious faith, uniting as an unlikely pair against the oppressive communist regime that was the Soviet Union.
Robert Orlando, screen writer and director, explores this untold story in his new film “The Divine Plan.” Inspired by the New York Times bestseller, A Pope and a President by Paul Kengor, Orlando’s film dives into the friendship of these world leaders and their common goal to bring down the communist bloc. “After reading Kengor’s book, I became fascinated with this narrative of two seemingly opposite men living these parallel lives that would bring them together for a higher purpose. Both attributed the events in their lives as playing out according to a ‘divine plan’ meant to liberate oppressed people in the U.S.S.R.,” said Orlando.
Orlando’s film, scheduled to be released in conjunction with Kengor’s second book of the same name, received a pre-screening at the Cathedral of St. Ignatius Loyola in Palm Beach Gardens on June 6. The Diocese of Palm Beach was among the first to screen the film in the U.S. and a Q&A session with Orlando followed the hour-and-a-half-long film. “The idea is to host these smaller, more intimate pre-screenings around the U.S. so that the film can gain momentum before it hits theaters. With its religious tones, it’s a film that mainstream Hollywood is going to push back on and I wanted it to have a fighting chance with Catholic audiences,” said Orlando.
An intriguing draw to the film’s historical look at Reagan’s and PJPII’s relationship is the influence of the actor’s craft on the men’s ability to affectively lead and inspire a nation to political and social change. The film touches on Ronald Reagan’s career as a Hollywood star before becoming president and Pope John Paul II’s time as a stage actor on Polish stages secreted away during World War II. “These men used their oratory gifts as actors and scholars of the stage to their advantage in their careers as political and religious leaders. They understood, especially, the significance of the symbolic act—the act of show and taking a united stance—that could rally a people together to incite change,” remarked Orlando.
The film expertly combines exclusive interviews with renowned authorities on Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan. The list includes Richard V. Allen, the U.S. National Security Advisor to Reagan, Bishop Robert Barron, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, U.S. historian H.W. Brands and more. A detailed portrait is painted of a U.S.-Vatican alliance, with Reagan’s and PJPII’s intimate conversations regrading religion at the center of revolution. The Cold War is examined from a moral perspective, highlighting the Soviet Union’s deliberate oppression of freedom of religion as an isolation tactic to break the people’s spirit of hope and rebellion.
Not all the themes in “The Divine Plan” stay in the past, however. During the Q&A session, Orlando revealed that the film’s release Fall of 2019 coincides with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9. “The destruction of the Berlin Wall was a symbolic act in the way that it ended the emotional, intellectual and spiritual divide of a country oppressed,” said Orlando. “I believe it is our duty pass on this history to the next generation as it faces its own difficult decisions to stand for people of faith and religious freedom.”
To watch a trailer of the film, read about the making of “The Divine Plan” and to see a listing of screenings and other events, visit thedivineplanmovie.com. Follow the film on Facebook @thedivineplanmovie.