‘Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism’ Documentary Takes Two Emmys

On December 3, the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced a documentary on Saint John Paul II had won two Emmys. The documentary, Liberating a continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism, won an Emmy for outstanding achievement for documentary programs in the historical category, and another Emmy award to the film’s director of photography.

The Emmy award for outstanding achievement for documentary programs in the historical category went to the documentary’s executive producer and Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson, along with producers Justyna Czyszek, Szymon Czyszek, David Naglieri, and Michele Nuzzo-Naglieri. Anderson is the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization with about 2 million members globally. He also worked with St. John Paul II while he was serving in the Reagan White House.

While receiving the award, Anderson remarked, “We are honored to receive these awards and grateful for the recognition it gives to this important film, which tells the story of how Eastern Europe regained its freedom without violence and by calling forth the best in the human spirit. The documentary shows how John Paul was the essential leader in making this happen and in such a hopeful, inspiring way.”

The documentary uses rare archival footage and features several interviews with heads of state, Papal biographers, cardinals and a former national security advisor to Ronald Reagan. The 90-minute documentary is different from other documentaries that mainly focus on the Pope’s 1979 pilgrimage and the birth of the Solidarity movement. The film lays some emphasis on the Pope’s travels to other Central and Eastern Europe countries, and the pivotal role he played in inspiring a “revolution of conscience” that ultimately led to the fall of the Iron Curtain.

The documentary takes viewers through St. John Paul II’s seminary days to his ascent to the papacy in 1978, his 1979 pilgrimage to Poland, the subsequent resolve of Poland’s Solidarity, the crumbling of the Berlin wall in 1989 followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In explaining the role of the Pope in the liberation of Europe from communism, Anderson commented, “Without his spiritual support, Solidarity's success would not have been possible, and without Solidarity, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Revolution of '89 would never have happened.”

David Naglieri, the script writer and director for the documentary shared his thoughts on what he thought to be the main focus of the film, “I think one of the central themes in our film is the idea that what determines the fate of nations is not just driven by political and economic factors. Individuals who are emboldened by a sense of their own dignity, and who embrace the moral duties that true freedom requires, can change the course of history.” 

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