That Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati liked to go mountain climbing is not a surprise to those who know even a little about the 20th-century Italian youth’s story.
“To the Top,” a new docudrama produced in cooperation with EWTN, uses this aspect of the blessed’s life as a focal point to better understand both Frassati’s humanity and his holiness.
“Pier Giorgio Frassati was one of these strong and powerful figures that we could really present to the audience of EWTN,” the film’s writer and director, Daniela Gurrieri, told EWTN News during production in August 2022.
“The audience will discover many aspects that are normal aspects of a youth of his time,” she said. “He loved to go with his friends in the mountains, to play jokes among them, to laugh, to have a good time together. But at the center of everything was faith, was prayer, was love for God.”
Gurrieri, together with members of the all-Italian cast and a niece and nephew of Frassati, were present at the Italian premiere of the film at Farnese Cinema in Rome on March 18.
The English-language drama is 52 minutes long, followed by approximately 30 minutes of interviews explaining more about Frassati’s life.
The name “To the Top” was taken from a phrase written on a photo of Frassati mountain climbing, dated a few weeks before his sudden death from polio at the age of 24.
On the photo, Frassati wrote “Sunday, June 7, 1925,” and in Italian, “Verso l’alto,” which is sometimes also translated in English as “to the heights.”
The docudrama centers on a day Frassati spent mountain climbing with some of his friends. Scenes of an early morning Mass followed by taking a train to the mountains and the hike itself are interspersed with flashbacks to Frassati’s life as a student and the son of a prominent journalist and Italian diplomat.
Scenes show Frassati’s dedication to prayer and the Mass, his generosity to the poor, his opposition to fascism, his lack of concern for his own comfort — and how he always maintained a strong enthusiasm for life and joy in his Catholic faith.
Frassati, who died on July 4, 1925, was beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 20, 1990.
“To discover Pier Georgio Frassati’s life and spirituality helped me be more prayerful, for example,” director Gurrieri said, “to trust more in God, to be more attentive also to the needs of the people, and also to be more kind. Pier Giorgio was very kind.”
Francesco Buttironi, a 27-year-old Italian actor, played Frassati.
He told EWTN News during production of the film in 2022 that it was challenging to play a Blessed.
“I think the tendency is to go to just abstract stuff,” he said. “Actually, we’re always talking about a human being ... so we have a life, we have a body, we have a family, and so I try to stay with that human part.”
“And from the human part … I have been traveling into his soul, into his spiritual behavior and spiritual life,” Buttironi added.
The actor said one particularly touching moment for him during the making of the docudrama was when they were filming a scene of Frassati and his friends praying the rosary in the mountains.
A member of the crew told Buttironi a personal story of something he had experienced once while reciting the rosary.
“And in that moment, in that specific moment while being in the mountains, in these wonderful places [where] we’ve been shooting in Abruzzo,” he said, “thinking about his experience touched me in some way.”
“It was really, really strong, and what was just another scene to shoot at some point became something really powerful, really strong that touched me even personally, I have to say.”
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“To the Top” will premiere on EWTN on June 28 at 10 p.m. ET and re-air on July 1 at 8 p.m. ET.