Friday, 25 May, 2007
The winners of the tenth edition of the Religion Today Film Festival have been named. Proceedings drew to a close this afternoon in Rome, host city of the first film festival dedicated to dialogue between religions, with the awards ceremony at the Sala Marconi in the Vatican City.
In the presence of padre Federico Lombardi, the Deputy Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Holy See, the Deputy Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Italy, the event opened with a concert by the Italo-American guitarist Anthony Mazzella; there followed greetings by Massimo Manservigi and Lia G. Beltrami, president and artistic director of Religion Today respectively, a speech by Franca Coen, Councillor of the Mayor of Rome for multi-ethnic and inter-cultural policy, who underlined Rome City Council’s commitment to inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, expressing the wish that the films of Religion Today, which have also been shown in schools, continue to educate people about other cultures. 
Also present were many of the participants in the workshop on cinema and religion organized by the Festival on the occasion of its tenth anniversary. For three days the Centro Nazareth in via Portuense played host to the International Jury of Religion Today 2007 and over 60 filmmakers, actors, and directors of important film festivals from over 15 countries worldwide (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Brazil, Canada, USA, France, Italy, Holland, Poland, Hungary, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Spain, South Africa, Israel). The “living workshop” organized as always by Religion Today confirmed how cinema is capable of acting as a go-between in order to bring people, nations and religions together. After 10 years of experience in dealing with professionals in the audio-visual field of communications, Religion Today sought to delve deeper into the themes discussed in previous editions, embarking on important moments of debate and sharing experiences on issues relating to the nature of and distribution of religious cinema.
Both the workshop and awards ceremony saw the participation of the Polish filmmaker Kryzstof Zanussi, several times prize-winner of Religion Today Film Festival and jury member in 2005. “The Religion Today Festival – declared the master filmmaker - is aimed at those rare souls in the world of audio-visual communication who state their opinions on spiritual values and more precisely religious themes. Those of us who deal with religion in art, used to being sidelined and alone, thanks to this festival can meet others, like Don Quixote, working in the same direction: and this is already something worthwhile in itself. This year another significant fact is that many animators of festivals of this kind have finally been able to meet: thanks to this opportunity there will be more coordination and sharing of information. Perhaps this new century will re-examine the spiritual dimension. Today this seems to be a long way away, but thanks to the Festival and all those who seek to swim against the tide”. 
Don Mario Gretter, an export in inter-religious dialogue, presented the results of the first part of the workshop, dedicated to the cinematic representation of religious experience and its possible contribution to the cause of dialogue. “Among the ideas for reflections which emerged from a rich and varied discussion from many viewpoints - explained Gretter – the first point, widely shared, regards the question of authenticity, in its different aspects: sincerity and honesty towards oneself as an artist, being faithful to the religious content, and objectivity or neutrality in documentary making”.
Another need which emerged from the discussion, totally in-keeping with the orientation of the Festival, is that of not diluting the heart of the message: “in this sense the temptation of seeking refuge in political correctness in the hope of not offending anyone should be shunned. The real challenge is that of recognizing differences, avoiding syncretism, in order to come to terms with it rather than trying to find a shallow common denominator”. 
In her speech Gilli Mendel, director of the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival who has collaborated with Religion Today for many years, summed up the results of the other workshop section, mostly composed of festival directors and workers in the field of communication, on the question of distributing religious cinema. “There were more questions than answers which emerged from our group’s work. The first concerns the difference between religious cinema and cinema which deals with religions: and many other questions arise from this basic one. Nonetheless, we all acknowledge that the common aim of our work is that of promoting a better understanding of mankind, or ourselves. We endeavour to better understand each other and broaden our horizons. The experience of our group has proved that this is possible.” 
Durino the course of the ceremony, Padre Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Press Office, accepted a gift from the Festival and gave his best wishes to the organizers. “As the director of Vatican Radio, which is playing host to this event, I have to offer my heartfelt admiration and appreciation for this undertaking. I know that for 10 years you have been working positively for dialogue between religions, urging us all to strive for peace. We know how much Pope John Paul II in his prayers in Assisi supported this commitment, and also Pope Benedict XVI follows this line of thought. Radio Vatican tries to work towards this ideal. We are convinced that we should encourage bringing individuals, cultures and peoples together: in this we fully approve of the spirit in which Religion Today operates. The same goes for the Vatican Press Office: we feel that we really are on the same wavelength of inter-religious dialogue which we strive to continue together.” 
The International Jury, composed of Gilad Goldschmidt (filmmaker, Israel), Sydne Rome (actress, USA), Magali Van Reeth (representative of SIGNIS, France), Mojtaba Raie (filmmaker, Iran), Enzo Sisti (producer, Italy), then confered the following awards: 
• Religion Today Award “In the Spirit of the Faith” to “The Sun Shines on All Equally” by Abbas Rafei, Iran: 
A marvellous film which offers a story of faith which goes beyond religion. An affirmation that God is everywhere. The story of two women of different faiths searching for the truth. A film full of mystery interpreted by two extraordinary actresses. 
• Best feature film to “M for Mother” by the Iranian director Rasoul Mollagholipour, who recently passed away: 
A film which offers the public an in-depth understanding of the consequences of war, especially in the time of chemical weapons, a problem which should not be forgotten. Families of every religion share the problem of handicapped children. This film teaches us that the only way to rise above such problems and live a normal life is through unity and love. 
• Best documentary to “Yoel, Israel & Pashkavils” by Lina Chaplin, Israel: 
A film which offers us a glimpse of a world which would otherwise be unknown to us. The true sentiment of this Festival is that discovering unknown identities, even if not always in harmony with each other, is the first step towards mutual understanding, an opening towards dialogue, and lastly, towards achieving peace.
• Best short film to “Milagros” by Javier Figuero, Spain: 
A film which offers a fresh and surprising look at divine providence and the miracle, something which is present in nearly all the films. 
Religion Today then presented a token of its appreciation to Krzsystof Zanussi, Anthony Mazzella and the Iranian Institute of Culture. Similarly, an award in memory of Michelangelo Antonioni was accepted by his widow Enrica; Marta Chieffo also accepted a gift in memory of her husband Claudio, a previous guest and collaborator of the Festival. 
The ceremony continued with the RELIGION YESTERDAY award by CINIT. Now in its 6th edition, the award, conferred on a filmmaker of the past who distinguished himself in his work in terms of cultural and poetic interest in religion, this year went to the memory of the master of Indian cinema Satyajit Ray. 
The following special award winners were also announced: 
• WOMEN AND RELIGION, awarded by the Town Council of Arco, to “The Sun Shines on All Equally” by Abbas Rafei, Iran; 
• ART AND RELIGION, awarded by the Fraternity of Nomadelfia, to “The Saint ” by Oleg Kovachev and Goran Blagoev, Bulgaria; 
• FRATERNITÀ NOMADELFIA, awarded by the Fraternity of Nomadelfia, to “Sowing in Tears” by Norman Servais, South Africa; 
• INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE “IN MEMORY OF DON SILVIO FRANCH” to “Jesus, the Spirit of God” by Nader Talbzadeh, Iran; 
• RELIGION TODAY “DON TONINO BELLO” ex aequo to “God is Close” by Ali Vazirian, Iran, and “Un Noel au Tibet” by Jean-Baptiste Warluzel, Falk van Gaver e Constantin de Slizewic, France; 
• PORTRAITS - IN MEMORY OF MASSIMO PREVEDELLO to “ Luce Verticale” by Salvatore Presti, Italy; 
• SCHOOL AND RELIGION, awarded by the student jury of Ferrara, ex aequo to “Parparim” by Jaap Van Heudsen, Israel-Holland, and “ Perfect World” by Diego D’Innocenzo and Marco Leopardi, Italy; 
• RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS, awarded by the student jury of Ferrara, to “Posada” by Mark McGregor, USA 
Also present at the ceremony was a delegation of Mennonites (Amish), Anabaptist protestants, who also had an audience with Pope Benedict XVI during the course of the morning. The documentary film “A Perfect World” by Marco Leopardi and Diego D’Innocenzo is dedicated to the Mennonite comminuties of Central America, at the crossroads of tradition and opening towards modernity. 
Religion Today continues with more screenings and meetings at which the special prizes will be awarded in the various host cities of the Festival now in its tenth year (Arco 19 October; Nomadelfia 19 October; Trento 20 October; Ferrara 25 October). At the end of a whole week of cinema and reflection in Milan, on Saturday 27 October the following special prizes will be conferred by the citizens’ jury: LINGUISTIC RESEARCH, awarded by the Dipartimento di Scienze della Comunicazione e dello Spettacolo dell'Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, and COMPASSION, awarded by the City of Milan to the film which best represents the specific theme of the festival, this year dedicated to the theme “Conflict and Compassion along Paths of Faith”.