Città del Vaticano
Wednesday, 20 October, 2010
With the announcement of the winners of the official competition, the 13th Religion Today is coming to an end, highlighting the growth of an event which is increasingly able to represent the complexity and ongoing changes in the “global village”.
Some 57 films from 22 different countries, representing a vast panorama of religions and confession from all continents, were admitted to the XIII edition of the Religion Today Film Festival out of a total of 195 which were entered to the competition. The theme of the year, “Journeys of Faith. Journeys of Hope”, provided a stimulus intended to connect two different and apparently different ways of travelling: from pilgrimage as an experience of prayer and inner search to the migrations of peoples and individuals brought about by necessity and circumstances. Given the social dimension of this edition several films in competition showed a certain sensibility towards the theme of disability, international relations, marginalization and social exclusion. 
Wednesday 20 October, in the Sala Marconi at Radio Vatican in the Vatican City, the winning films were awarded by the International Jury composed of Clementine Ederveen (Lotus Film, the Netherlands), Dror Shwartz (Jerusalem Cinemateque, Steve Warne (producer, Australia), Ahmed Zamal (director Dhaka International Film Festival, Bangladesh) and Zohreh Zamani (filmmaker, Iran).
The Grand Prize “In the Spirit of Faith” at the XIII edition of the Religion Today Film Festival was awarded to NO GREATER LOVE (Michael Whyte, UK 2009, 105 min):
A journey of faith in which we gently research the everyday life and inner sanctum of the nuns’ convent that’s notable for its restrictions on speech in the service of devotion. The sisters’ humanity is revealed and the value of inner reflection is thrown into relief. A powerful message for those of us who inhabit fast societies that militate against the possibility of wisdom and the love of God. Beautifully crafted, this almost monochromatic documentary is anything but stereotypical. An amazing achievement, given that it was also edited and shot by the director alone.
The international and inter-religious jury awarded Best Feature Film to LOURDES (Jessica Hausner, Austria/France 2009, 96 min):
A journey of faith in which a paralysed girl makes a pilgrimage to Lourdes - the French village famous for the possibility of miracle cures. Superbly directed and performed, it walks a tightrope between the celebration of the miracle of love which enables her to dance again and the question as to why a merciful God does not grant such opportunities to all. 
A special mention was also given to MEKAEL (Jamshid Bahmani, Iran 2010, 75 min):
A jewel-like film in which doubting villagers long for the truth as to whether or not a mother’s son has, or has not, really returned home from a war. A mystical journey of both hope and faith, in which a mother’s love for her son keeps him alive. Reality or fantasy?
The prize for the best short film went to SALIM (Tommaso Landucci, Italy 2009, 14 min):
A heart-warming story of a young Muslim boy who escapes from the police after a robbery and seeks refuge in a Catholic church, where he spends the night. The director’s vision culminates in a touching scene in which, the next morning, the boy and a priest, unaware of each other’s presence, pray to their God. 
The best documentary was awarded to IN THE SHADOW OF BUDDHA (Heather Kessinger, India/USA 2010, 46 min):
Through the ageless smile of a group of Buddhist nuns, the director takes us on a journey of faith revealing their spiritual presence. The longing of the older nuns to dedicate their lives to the teaching of the Buddha only becomes a reality through the younger generations. The film celebrates the essence of Buddhism in a scene in which sparkling young nuns debate the value of impermanence. 
A special mention was awarded to OUT OF CORDOBA: AVERROES AND MAIMONIDES IN THEIR TIME AND OURS (Jacob Bender, USA/Spain 2010, 82 min):
A journey of hope, impeccably researched, in which we accompany an American Jew who is searching for historical examples of societies that have tolerated the coexistence of Muslims, Jews and Christians and encouraged intellectual and artistic collaboration. This, in the wake of September 11th 2001 and the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. It explores how the Muslim and Jewish philosophers/scientists Averroes and Maimonedes developed interpretations of their faiths which welcomed interfaith dialogue and closed the doors to fundamentalists. A timely message for sure. 
The SIGNIS jury (World Catholic Association for Communication), made up of Andrea Sponchiado (Italy), Margarida Ataìde (Portugal) and Dulce Araujo Evora (Capo Verde), awarded the SIGNIS Prize for the documentary ZEN AND WAR (Alexander Oey, The Netherlands 2010, 60 min), for the clear narrative and technique with which the atrocities which took place during the conflict between China Japan are brought to the fore, and the way in which the principles of Zen were oppressed by the objectives of war. A reminder of how, faced with nationalistic causes, any people can so easily become blinded by the principles of its religious faith.
a special mention went to HALAKEH (Avigail Sperber, Israel 2008, 50 min), for the way in which it captures the contrast between religious fundamentalism and a more balanced view of faith, due to the intense interpretation of the actors especially the boy. 
The Nomadelfia jury awarded the “Fraternity” Prize for the documentary “When a Line of Light shines” (Shahriar Pourseyedian, Iran 2009, Islam, 19 min). A special mention went to “Sempre più in là: al cuore della Mongolia” (Carlo De Biase, Paola De Biase, Italy 2010, Catholicism, 25 min).
The 13th Religion Today Film Festival will conclude tomorrow with more screenings in Nomadelfia, Tuscany, an at the Nuovo Cinema Aquila in Rome.
Moreover Religion Today is a cultural centre open all year round to schools, organizations and associations. More international exchanges are planned from Jerusalem to Dhaka in Bangladesh, and then on to Poland in November with three days of screenings from the RT archive.