Shades of Truth premieres in Rome on Monday and recounts a Jewish man’s journey to the Vatican to uncover Pius’ efforts to save people from the Holocaust.
Filmmakers credit the wartime pontiff with saving 800,000 Jews and describe Pius as “the most misunderstood figure of the 20th century”.
The figure is based on research by the late historian Pinchas Lapide, director Liana Marabini told Corriere della Sera: “Pinchas Lapide is absolutely credible, because he was Jewish, he lived during war and knew Pius XII well.”
The Italian pontiff, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Pacelli, led the Catholic Church from 1939 to 1958. His detractors accuse him of not doing enough to save people from the Nazis.
Marcello Pezzetti, director of the Museum of the Shoah Foundation in Rome, said the film presented a “false interpretation of history”.
“How can one support that Pius XII saved 800,000 Jews? It’s not even an interpretation, it’s simply a theory of the ideological sort, it’s another thing completely. In other words, it’s not even scandalous. It’s out of place,” he told Corriere.
In a biography of Pope Pius XII, the Vatican said the pontiff used “all means at his disposal to alleviate the misery” of people including Jews during the Second World War, both within Italy and abroad.
After its premiere in Rome, Shades of Truth will open in cinemas across Italy and internationally next month.