The Religion Today Film Festival was born in Trento in 1997 as the first event of its kind dedicated to dialogue between cinema and religions. At the basis of the festival is the conviction that cinema can offer a good workshop for reciprocal learning between different cultures and their unique imaginations. The undoubted efficacy of the image, does, in fact, enable a vast public to understand the thoughts and main figures of different religions. This is the premise necessary in order to begin to put flight to preconceptions and ignorance due to lack of information which often cause prejudice regarding religions as the cause of war and social conflict. Never before has this path of reciprocal knowledge been so urgent and so current.
On the road
The festival has always fostered the idea of a literal and figurative journey at its heart: the itinerant aspect expresses the will to take its awareness and experiences out into the world, not forgetting its origins but to build new homes in different cultures. Over the years Religion Today has travelled to many Italian and world destinations, such as Assisi (Pg), Bologna, Bolzano/Bozen, Milan, Nomadelfia (GR), Ravenna, Rome, Londra, Jerusalem, Sao Paulo Brasil, Teheran, Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Zamosc in Poland. Every edition confirms and reinforces this migrant characteristic of the festivl with a rich programme distributed among various Italian towns and a range of international collaborations. This is the expression of a developing identity which has its roots in a specific history, but it is precisely thanks to this history that it feels itself pushed towards the road of change under the sign of discovery and a plural society such as we have today.
The cinematic competition
Religion Today above all is a cinematic competition open to feature films, documentaries and short films which explore the various points of view on the existence of the divine according to different religions. Each year dozens of films from all over the world are entered into the competition, which represents an important international occasion for discussing and sharing techniques, talking about the theory and poetry of current cinematography. After the work of the selection committee, an international and multi-faith Jury decide on the four main prizes: In the Spirit of the Faith, to the best feature film, to the best documentary and the best short film. Other special prizes are awarded by sponsors and promoters of the festival. Highlighting those productions which are rarely represented in wider circles, Religion Today has often contributed to the discovery of the unknown works of filmmakers under censorship, or without a market or distributor, and has shed new light on well-known high profile films (such as "The Passion" by Mel Gibson or "The Great Silence" by Philip Groening).
The living workshop
Alongside the cinematographic competition Religion Today introduced the "living workshop" involving people working in cinema and cinematographic experts of different faiths and nationalities, offering an ideal opportunity for bringing people together, enhancing the wealth of differences between them which no "easy" dialogue can ignore or knowingly suppress. Every year the invited guests including the filmmakers in competition, actors and those working in the field of cinema are welcomed to a specific house where they spend the days of the festival including moments of reflection, time for prayer (according to the various religious groups) and mealtimes, in order to go "from a culture of tolerance to one of celebrating our differences" (don Tonino Bello).
The 2002-2003 editions, "Under the same heaven", tried to trace common elements within different religious faiths; from 2004 the choice was one of Exploring the differences, in order to underline the will to delve deeper and not treat the festival's contents in an artificial or banal way. We received welcome positive feedback on this choice aimed at challenging our pseudo-certainties about religions: in order to explore our beliefs and present them without fear, so as to get to know our "neighbour" in a non-standardized way nor to try and standardize our "neighbour", however neglected or misinterpreted, and to build bridges of dialogue between men and women of different religions.
A yearly theme
As part of "Exploring the differences", each year the festival identifies an overall theme to be used a point of reference which should facilitate exploring the different approaches to belief and culture. To mark the tenth edition we chose the great theme of "Compassion - Conflict and compassion along paths of faith", while for 2008 filmmakers were invited to tackle the theme of "The face of the Other". In 2009 the theme was "Born from Above. New Life in Faith", while the 2010 edition reinforced the Festival social concern discussing the topic "Journeys of Faith. Journeys of Hope", connected both with pilgrimage and with migrations; for the following editions the titles "Poverty. Problem or opportunity?" (2011), "Conflicts. Religions and (non) violence (2012) and "Visions. Reality and Utopia" (2013) were chosen.