MOMA: Timing No Accident

Beginning today through April 13, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art is featuring the film, “The Pope’s Toilet.” Shown in Spanish with English subtitles, the movie revolves around a visit by Pope John Paul II to the poor town of Melo, Uruguay, near Brazil. Anticipating the arrival of the pope, townspeople make plans to set up food and drink stands, etc. One of them decides to make money by setting up an outdoor public pay toilet. The film is the work of two Uruguayans: writer Enrique Fernández and cinematographer César Charlone.

Commenting on this is Catholic League president Bill Donohue:

“This movie would not garner our attention except for its venue and timing. It debuted two years ago and it is deliberately being shown during Holy Week, ending on Easter Monday. And it is not being shown at some dump in the Village—it is being showcased at the Museum of Modern Art.

“The New York Times says the film takes ‘an oblique dig at a church that, the movie suggests, may have failed its most disadvantaged followers.’ When it was shown at the Toronto Film Festival two years ago, it was described as blending ‘the sacred and profane.’ Which explains why V.A. Musetto of the New York Post —who has never found a Catholic-bashing movie he didn’t love—gave it three stars.

“The person responsible for all this is Laurence Kardish, senior curator in the Department of Film at the Museum of Modern Art. He didn’t choose this film without deliberation. Indeed, he admits to previewing ‘more films than there are hours in the year’ (when not walking his dogs with a wooden rolling duck in the West Village). And ‘The Pope’s Toilet’ beat out all competitors. We checked to see what Muslims were treated to at Ramadan and found that ‘Hollywood on the Hudson: Filmmaking in New York, 1920-39’ was featured then. When Jews celebrated Yom Kippur, a movie about African patriarchy was shown, ‘Delwende.’ Which makes his choice of ‘The Pope’s Toilet’ at Eastertime take on greater meaning.”

Contact Kardish at

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