By Andrew Petiprin
In recent years, the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli has enjoyed international success while frequently offering traditional Christian songs to a mass audience. Blind since the age of 12 and experiencing significant success as a singer while only in his30s, Bocelli has known hardship in his life, but his art and faith are nonetheless rooted in gratitude. His spiritual life has been heavily influenced by the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, and in the 1990s, Bocelli reembraced the Catholic faith of his youth. Following in the long tradition of the people of God offering beautiful music in expressions of joy and sorrow, gratitude and distress, Bocelli’s music is appreciated by many as a gifted and graceful source of hope.
In celebration of his faith, family, friends, and homeland, Bocelli recently embarked on a 200-mile pilgrimage — on horseback — along the Via Francigena, from Rome to his provincial Italian estate. The result is the new film “The Journey: A Musical Special from Andrea Bocelli,” directed by Gaetano Morbioli and Paolo Sodi for the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and coming exclusively to theaters from Fathom Events April 2-4 and again on April 6. For established fans of Bocelli and the artists with whom he travels and performs, the film will be a welcome treat for Holy Week.
“The Journey” begins with a delightful, but all-too-brief cameo from Pope Francis, who blesses Bocelli and his fellow travelers as they set out in dramatic fashion on horseback from St. Peter’s Basilica. Chief among Bocelli’s riding companions is his wife, Veronica, who also is one of the film’s executive producers. One scene features the couple’s young daughter, Virginia, whom Bocelli serenades in an empty church with a version of “Ave Maria” that he had written for her a few years earlier. In another scene, Bocelli performs Schubert’s familiar version of the same sacred text in a picturesque landscape.
The film alternates between stunning drone shots of the Italian countryside, conversations on horseback between Bocelli and his friends, and dramatically staged performances in a variety of outdoor and indoor settings along the route. Given the number of contemporary Christian artists who appear with Bocelli in this project, some Catholic viewers may find themselves encountering artists such as Tori Kelly, Michael W. Smith, Tauren Wells and Hillsong United’s Taya Gaukrodgers for the very first time. Classical music fans may enjoy seeing and hearing from the world-famous Welsh crossover singer Katherine Jenkins, Bach specialist Ramin Bahrami, conductor Beatrice Venezi, and the Croatian cellist duo, 2CELLOS, who have become a YouTube sensation.
Along the way, Bocelli reflects on his disability, his career and most of all his family. Toward the end of the film, he meets up with his adult son, Matteo, who reads his father a letter of appreciation while Bocelli strums a Spanish guitar. The film concludes with an outdoor celebration at Bocelli’s home, with spontaneous music, wine and conversation — the epitome of the art of living Italians are famous for.
From a strictly faith-filled perspective, “The Journey”might have been more spiritually enriching had Bocelli and his companions spoken more about the holy sites along the route. Bocelli barely mentions his own devoutness, although it may be clear enough from his encounter with the pope and his choice of Catholic devotional anthems. And while many of the songs from the evangelical performers might not resonate with all Catholics, we can all appreciate the ecumenical spirit of the whole group’s performance of “Amazing Grace” at the end of the film.
Catholics may hope that “The Journey” (https://thejourney.movie/) may stir the hearts of all viewers for Christ, his church, and the Kingdom of Heaven — the last of which feels at times to be very near in the beauty of Bocelli’s native soil.
Tickers for “The Journey” are available at fathomevents.com.
Andrew Petiprin writes about Catholicism and popular culture for various publications, and he lives with his family in Plano, Texas.