Controversy Over Pope Joan by author Donna Woolfolk Cross

In April, "Pope Joan", the movie based on my novel of the same name, opened in Italy. "La Papessa" ( the title in Italian) was doing so-so business at the box office until the Vatican denounced it--at which point it vaulted to the top of the box office charts. In the mad, mad world we live in, controversy sells things. The Vatican surely understands this, and yet could not refrain from condemning Pope Joan, an act that had the opposite effect of the one desired. The best way to bury any story is to ignore it. Joan's story is over a millennium old, but few people have ever heard of her. It doesn't matter whether Joan's story is legend or truth (though one can make a strong case for the latter, as I do in the Author's Note the end of my novel). King Arthur's story is known to be nothing more than legend, yet every school child knows Arthur's name. His story has been told and re-told, repeated and advanced to the point where it seems like history, like Henry VIII and his six wives. In contrast, Joan's story has been expunged, obliterated, and ignored. A good example of what Francis Bacon, the 17th-century philosopher said: "People believe what they prefer to be true." I think the movie is wonderful (and how often do you hear the author of the book say THAT?) Enjoy the screening at the Aero Theater as pure story-telling, or as history, whichever you prefer. Either way, I think you'll be inspired, as I was, by this tale of a woman who overcame medieval social strictures asserting that females can not reason and therefore should not be educated--and who defiantly went on to become the most brilliant and scholarly mind of her day. What an inspirational story to tell our daughters, and our sons!

POPE JOAN screens on Friday, October 27, 2010 at 7:30 PM at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica as part of GERMAN CURRENTS: New Films From Germany.

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