Tuesday, 6 October, 2009
Just over a week to go before the XII edition of the Religion Today Film Festival kicks off, from 14 to 24 October in the city of Trento and the surrounding province and also Rome, Bolzano, Bassano (Vi) and Nomadelfia (Gr).
Since its beginnings in 1997, Religion Today has been the first itinerant festival dedicated to the cinema of religion towards a culture of dialogue and peace. The latest edition confirms the long-lasting commitment to enhancing quality cinema, one which bears witness to the complexity of different religions and the wealth of experiences of faith or encounters with others within the context of the challenges and problems of modern life.
This year’s theme, “Born from Above. New Life in Faith”, invites us to reflect on religion as something alive and life-giving. Religion Today 2009 has deliberately chosen to focus on the world of young people, through a selection of films which testify to the search for new languages and means of communication especially those of tomorrow’s adults. During the mornings dedicated to schools in Trento, Bolzano and Vezzano, further screenings will also be held in the Trentino capital town for families and young people, as we are convinced that widening our knowledge of the religious dimension, leaving aside individual stances, can provide a novel insight into daily life and relations with other people and the community at large.
In this light, the Film Festival sees itself as a journey of discovery “exploring the differences” which no logic of ‘easy’ dialogue can ignore or deliberately suppress. 
Building on its presence in the local provincial area, and at the same time on a national and international scale, Religion Today seeks to offer the public the widest chance of viewing works from far-flung cinema productions or those least known and rarely available in other contexts. The wealth of different religions is mediated also by fringe events, study seminars and meetings with international guests. 
Some 57 films have been admitted to the cinematic competition, which includes feature films, documentaries, shorts and television reportages from every continent and which represent a vast panorama of different religious faiths.
The International Jury - this year made up of Paola Pannicelli (Rai Fiction producer), Mordechai Vardi (director of the Department of Screenwriting of the Ma’ale Film School), Iouri Goroulev (director of the Belarus Magnificat Film Festival), Lassaad Jamoussi (screenwriter and teacher at the University of Sfax) and Ali Vazirian (director and visual artist, winner of Religion Today 2008) - will award the prizes according to category and the grand prize Religion Today “In the Spirit of Faith”.
This year a special prize will again be awarded by SIGNIS along with further themed prizes for “Religions on the small screen” and the sections Born from Above, Inter-religious Dialogue, Journeys of Faith, Parents and children, Young People and Communication, Complex Identities, Religion and Society, Rites and Beliefs and Portraits. 
Trento and Vezzano (15-24 October)
The Trentino capital town will play host to the official opening of the Festival, scheduled for the evening of Thursday 15 October at the San Marco Theatre. It was right here in Trento in 1997 that Religion Today began as an expression of an region which has always believed in the comparison of cultures and religions.
Over the ten days of screenings in Trento, the work of the International Jury will also take place at the same time and the Final Awards Ceremony will be held at the Castello del Buonconsiglio.
Among the special fringe events there will be a seminar in collaboration with the Fondazione S. Ignazio and a retrospective with CINIT – Italian Cineforum. A special section will be dedicated to short films made by young people from over 20 Brazilian states as part of a collaboration between Trento and Brazil.
A special ‘city jury’ - this year for the first time made up of representatives of different cultures and religions present in the Trentino area, will award the prize for inter-religious dialogue dedicated to Don Silvio Franch. As in 2008, a representative of Trentino journalists will award the prize for the best interpretation of the complex relationship between “Religion and Society”. The festival’s ties with local towns is consolidated with screenings in Vezzano throughought the entire day of Thursday 22 October; the increasing participation of the Trentino valleys is confirmed by the special juries formed in Lisignago and in the Valle dei Laghi for the sections “Parents and children” and “Portraits”. 
Rome (19-21 October)
This year Rome will again host the Living Workshop for filmmakers and experts in the world of cinema and the audiovisual field, all from different countries and faiths. From Monday 19 October for three days will be dedicated to communication and cultural exchange with moments of sharing both meals and prayers, each according to his/her own faith. 
On the second day all present will take part in a study seminar on the theme: “Communicating God in cinema”, organized in collaboration with the Facoltà di Scienze della Comunicazione sociale della Università Pontificia Salesiana in Rome. That evening a jury of students from the faculty will award the special prize “Young people and communication”. 
Finally, for the third year running, the Workshop will end with the announcement of the winners and the prize ceremony at Radio Vatican. 
Bolzano (16, 23 October)
Bolzano, a city with a strong multilingual and multicultural identity, in the heart of Europe, expresses one of the main aims of the Festival: encouraging meetings and comparisons between different cultural and religious identities with the highest respect, both in form and substance, of their right to be different. In the South Tyrolean capital at the Teatro Cristallo, the Festival films will be offered to the public and schools with subtitles and/or voice over in Italian and German. 
Bassano (14 October, 20-22 November)
Bassano will host the preview of screenings planned at the centre of spirituality at Villa San Giuseppe. In the month of November, in collaboration with Religion Today an in-depth course of screenings will continue on “Art and Spirituality: going from the language of cinema to the biblical source”, starting from two films on the theme of the wise men’s journey. 
Nomadelfia (22 October)
There is a long-established relationship between Religion Today and the community of Nomadelfia, founded by don Zeno Santini on the “law of fraternity”. The collaboration with Nomadelfia will include meetings and screenings dedicated to young people and family groups; a special Nomadelfia jury will award the “Fraternity” prize. 
Since summer 2008 Religion Today has been present also in Sant’Angelo a Fasanella, in the province of Salerno in the natural setting of the Cilento National Park. The experience proved the wish to continue along the way of meetings and exchanges which from Sant’Angelo will reach out to the nearby communities of the Diocese of Teggiano Policastro, according to an ongoing project in line with the history and aims of Religion Today. 
Religion Today’s journey has always been defined by its relations with other festivals, organizations and cultural and spiritual institutions which share the same ideas of encounters and dialogue. 
Throughout its history Religion Today has touched base in numerous Italian cities and further afield, amongst which Trento, Rome, Milan, Bologna, Bolzano/Bozen, Nomadelfia, Ferrara, Sant'Angelo a Fasanella, Bassano, Jerusalem, London, Teheran, Dhaka, San Paolo Brazil, Minsk, Deir Mar Musa Syria.
A consolidated friendship involving exchanges of films and shared projects links the experiences of Religion Today and a similar Brazilian festival “Looking at the Sacred”.
In November 2009 Religion Today will take part in the project “Dialoghi in cammino” (Dialogue along the way), promoted by the Autonomous Province of Trento with the aim of encouraging an atmosphere of respect and integration between peoples of different cultures and religions present within the region. Through screenings and meetings with international guests, the festival will contribute to the setting up of an interreligious group of young Trentini people, who will take part in a journey to Syria along Abraham’s Path. 
In December, the festival will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its collaboration with the Jerusalem Cinemateque opening a window onto other religions within the Jewish Film Festival. The activities and relations will be extended to Palesatine; among the events planned is one with sufi leader Abdul Aziz Bukhari, already a guest of the festival, for a project of dialogue which will involve groups of young Muslims and Jews along with some of their peers from Trentino (Children of Abraham).
The eleventh edition of the Dhaka International Film Festival, organized every two years in the capital city Bangladesh, will dedicate space to Religion Today’s films in Januray 2010 with a special section dedicated to spiritual cinema. 
Over the last three years Religion Today has been a member of SIGNIS, the worldwide Catholic organization for communication which brings together professionals of cinema and mass media from 140 countries. The festival collaborates with the Paoline (Pauline Sisters) on the selection of films for international distribution. Since spring 2009 a new important collaboration has begun in the Trentino region as the Bianconero Association which is responsible for organizing the festival became part of the Fondazione S. Ignazio. 
2009 witnessed the re-organization of Religion Today as a centre for cultural activities all year round. The Trento office remains open every morning to enable schools, university students, Town Councils, parishes and associations to have access to the vast archive, which contains over 1000 films from different countries and religious faiths. Throughout the year the Festival offers advise to local schools and organizes meetings; teachers may make use of different “student kits”, which include worksheets for teaching activities for classroom use in conjunction with films.