BY Mariusz Elert
TORONTO—Soul Doctor (Lekarz Dusz), the film, is about a man and his dedication to the missions he serves.
This is how executive producer Renata Kolacz described the documentary film she and her crew envisioned and filmed in 2015—over the course of a harsh winter in Nunavut and Manitoba and a beautiful spring in Poland.
But the film goes beyond narrating the story of a bishop in Canada’s North: Oblate Bishop Anthony Krotki of the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay, at 2.93 million sq m, the largest Catholic diocese in the world. Instead, it shows in moving detail the motivations, hopes and fears of a young Polish boy who, on losing his father at the age of 12 and not wanting to disappoint his widowed mother, found a way to seek a life beyond the confines of his small village and the people he grew up with.
Renata Kolacz knew about Bishop Krotki because of common friends in her youth who were also close to the bishop. She knew about the stories he had told about the missions in the North. “They were incredible stories, they made us curious about how life was lived in that part of the world.” When a group of their friends decided to go to Rome for the canonization of Pope John Paul II, the first Polish pontiff, they invited then-pastor Father Tony to attend the ceremonies with them. He agreed, but couldn’t make it at the last minute because he was busy raising funds to build a church in one of his missions.
One of the priests at the gathering suggested to Renata that if there was one person who could become a holy man like Saint Pope John Paul II, it would be their humble friend from Jaworzynka, the tiny village where Bishop Krotki grew up in.
Recalls Renata: “Knowing his life and work, the priest believed that one day Father Tony would become a saint, and that we should record his every word and action for posterity. That’s where the idea of recording his notes and voice grew.”
At the time, Renata, with her three boys already grown up and on their own, was discerning what she could do to contribute to the Church and the community around her. “But I thought recording Father Tony’s voice and taking photos were not enough, so I decided to learn how to use a movie camera.”
Renata searched for a mentor, and found Mariusz Elert, a veteran videographer who taught her the basics of filmmaking. When she found that the technical requirements of filmmaking were beyond her, Renata asked Mariusz to direct the film himself. However, knowing the harsh weather conditions in the Arctic, Mariusz advised that they needed someone with polar photography experience—Wojciech Ostrowski, a seasoned navigator of both the North and South Poles—who became the film`s director of photography.
The film crew did not work from a script, says Renata. “We came to the North without any prejudices. We wanted to see the North as it was: with all its beauty, dangers, and starkness. And to share the Bishop’s story as it unfolded. ”
She adds: “If Soul Doctor could inspire even just one person to become a priest or a religious, I would have fulfilled my goal.”
The film is available through the Global Village Foundation’s website at: www.fgw.org.pl.