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“This is July 16, 1990,” says a recognizably midwestern voice, as the camera focuses on a thin, dour young man in clerical clothes sitting in front of an altar, “and  habemus papem. W e have a pope.” So begins Pope Michael , a weird, intriguing, and distressing documentary about a young man in a small town in rural eastern Kansas who, after being elected by six people, a group that included his parents and himself, claimed to be the Bishop of Rome.

The director plays it straight, telling the story of a man, his mother, and his two followers who are as he depicts them good, kind, likeable people. But that makes their story even more distressing, because the man’s claim to be the pope is just . . . just crackers. What must it be like to go through life thinking you’re the pope?

Here is the original short documentary . There is another one I’ve seen but can’t track down explaining the election.

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