Alumnus Arturo Cardelús Scores His First Major Film, Call Me Francesco

Kimberly Ashton
February 23, 2016
Arturo Cardelús '11
Courtesy of Arturo Cardelús

Though he’d never scored a major film, Arturo Cardelús ‘11 knew he was the right composer for this particular job as soon as he heard about it. Acclaimed Italian director Daniele Luchetti was going to make a biopic about the pope, and the subject was personal for Cardelús.

I just felt a very strong connection with Pope Francis, and I thought that would come across in my music. It was a spiritual thing,” says Cardelús, a musician from Madrid who majored in composition and film scoring at Berklee. His faith paid off: he ended up beating out several other composers for the gig, and writing 45 minutes for the feature-length film, called Chiamatemi Francesco, or Call Me Francesco (sometimes referred to as Call Me Francis).

The movie premiered at the Vatican, before a crowd of 7,000 people, in December and has been sold to distributors in nearly 40 countries. It hit American screens on February 21, headlining the L.A. Italia Film Fest.

Call Me Francesco documents the pope’s transformation from a young Argentine man grappling with life under a dictatorship to a religious leader revered by billions. To illustrate this trajectory, Cardelús had to write for different layers of the movie.

A Multifaceted Composition

Luchetti, Cardelús says, wanted to “make a movie that would portray [Pope Francis] as a human being with some flaws, and not a perfect person. For that, he wanted the music to be simple. Nothing other than his truth.” To convey this quality, he enlisted guitarist Juanito Pascual to play an uncomplicated tune, one Cardelús says goes to a viewer’s heart in a straightforward way. For the Argentine storyline, his music was dark and energetic, mirroring the turbulence of the era. The third layer, he says, is about Pope Francis's ascension to the papacy, and has spiritual and religious overtones.

Cardelús wrote the music in a month and a half, mostly from his base in Los Angeles. At first, he says, the anxiety of getting a project this big so early in his career was paralyzing, and the melodies weren’t coming to him. He decided to stop looking at the movie and to sit in a familiar place, in front of his piano. “And when I did that, everything started happening in a more natural way, because for me the piano is always the beginning of everything.” Weeks later, he recorded the score remotely with an orchestra in Budapest. 

Aside from his six weeks composing the score for Call Me Francesco, Cardelús has a thriving career. Since moving to L.A. in 2012, he’s orchestrated for movies, including The Paperboy, written music for commercials, including spots for Mercedes and for pharmaceutical companies, and composed for the musicians from the Berlin Philharmonic. “So far I’m very busy and really happy," he says.

Watch the Budapest Art Orchestra perform part of Cardelús's Call Me Francesco score: