FaithWorld

Religion-themed films take top prizes at Cannes Film Festival

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul (in white) and cast member Wallapa Mongkolprasert at the screening of ''Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat'' (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives) in Cannes on May 21, 2010/Yves Herman

A Buddhist-inspired Thai film has won the coveted Palme d’Or for best picture at the Cannes film festival. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” a mystical exploration of reincarnation as a well-to-do farmer confronts his imminent death, was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Xavier Beauvois’ “Of Gods and Men,” based on the real-life story of seven Catholic monks murdered during unrest in Algeria in the 1990s, took the runner-up Grand Prix award at the closing session on Sunday.

“I would like to thank all the spirits and all the ghosts in Thailand who made it possible for me to be here,” Apichatpong, who has won other prizes in Cannes before, said after receiving the award.  He said during the festival that his thoughts were mainly on violence back home between government forces and protesters in the “red shirt” movement. cannes 2

Director Xavier Beauvois (2nd L) and cast members arrive for the screening of the film "Of Gods and Men" in Cannes on May 18, 2010/Christian Hartmann

Cannes film follows French monks killed in Algeria

beauvois Xavier Beauvois at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18, 2010/Vincent Kessler

The unsolved murder of seven French monks in Algeria during the brutal civil conflict of the 1990s is recounted in “Of Gods and Men,” a sombre and reflective entry at the Cannes film festival.

The seven members of a Trappist order, who lived in a monastery in Tibehirine south of Algiers, disappeared in 1996 during a savage wave of killings by both Islamist militants and government forces.  Only their severed heads were ever recovered and the exact circumstances in which they died are unclear.

Director Xavier Beauvois takes no side in the controversy over who to blame, focussing instead on the unhurried rhythms of life in the monastery and ending the film as they disappear with their captors up a snowy mountain path.

Film champions liberalism in conservative Egypt

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The great Giza pyramids and the Sphinx on March 27, 2010/Amr Abdallah Dals

A new film exploring issues of sexual freedom, polygamy and individuality has drawn media praise in Egypt, but its liberal message remains on the margins in the country’s conservative society. The appearance of Rasayel El Bahr, or Messages from the Sea, in Egyptian theatres is the latest indication of an easing of censorship rules, which film critics say reflects government efforts to counter Islamism.

The film’s themes are striking in a country where the streets are dominated by the Islamic headscarf and where, analysts say, the state is battling against the rise of stricter versions of Islam emanating from Gulf states like Saudi Arabia.

In director Daoud Abdel Sayed’s story, Yehya, a young doctor who moves to coastal Alexandria and slowly shakes free of social norms, falls in love with Nora, who leads him to believe she is a prostitute. Viewers learn that Nora, as the second wife in a polygamous marriage, just sees herself this way. Polygamy is permitted in Egypt under Islamic sharia law.

German film explores Muslims struggling with life in West

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Burhan Qurbani at the Berlinale International Film Festival, 17 Feb 2010/Tobias Schwarz

German-Afghan director Burhan Qurbani shines the spotlight on the difficulties facing young Muslims in the western world in his first feature film “Shahada”, set in multicultural Berlin. The film, which won applause at its screening at the Berlin film festival on Wednesday, is about the intertwining tales of three young German-born Muslims struggling to reconcile their family faith and traditions with a modern, Western lifestyle.

“My motivation was to get the audience to look at the film and connect with this religion that is all around them,” said Qurbani, born in Germany of Afghan parents. “I hope the film will get the public to talk, to debate.”

Did Jesus headline Glastonbury before Springsteen?

glastonburyJesus Christ may have visited an English town now renowned for a raucous modern-day music festival to meet ancient druids, a new film argues.  “And Did Those Feet” explores the theory that Jesus accompanied Joseph of Arimathea on a visit to the area around the southern English town of Glastonbury. (Photo: At the end of Glastonbury Festival 2009, 29 June 2009/Luke MacGregor)

The Glastonbury Festival held on a farm near the town draws some of the 21st century’s biggest music stars such as Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Neil Young and U2 to the world’s largest open air music and arts festival.

Church of Scotland Minister and researcher for the film Gordon Strachan argues that Jesus may have come to Britain to further his education because the area was a stronghold of the ancient druids, then associated with ancient wisdom.

Founder of Catholic Opus Dei group focus of movie

opus-deiIf Opus Dei had a rough ride in the blockbuster movie based on Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” it looks set for an altogether more sympathetic portrayal in another film that deals with the Catholic organization.

British director Roland Joffe, renowned for Oscar-nominated “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission,” is making “There Be Dragons,” a film set during the Spanish Civil War that focuses in part on the life of Opus Dei founder Jose Maria Escriva. (Photo: Image of Escriva at his canonisation at the Vatican, 6 Oct 2002/Paolo Cocco)

Principal photography is complete, and Joffe is now in the editing room aiming to have the movie, which stars Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, ready for theatres by autumn next year.

Qatari firm in talks to make Prophet Mohammad film

mohammadA film about the Prophet Mohammad backed by the producer of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Matrix” is under discussion, a Qatar media firm said Sunday, with the aim of creating an English-language blockbuster for the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.

Filming of the $150 million movie is set to start in 2011, with Barrie Osborne as its producer, Almoor Holdings said. Almoor said the film – in which the Prophet would not be depicted, in accordance with Islamic strictures – was in development and talks were being held with studios, talent agencies and distributors in the United States and Britain.

Alnoor said it aimed to attract the “best international talent” to star in the motion picture.

Would Polanski get a pass if he were a paedophile priest?

polanskiIt’s hard to watch France’s political and cultural elite rush to support filmmaker Roman Polanski against extradition to the United States on a decades-old sex charge and not wonder exactly how they interpret the national motto liberté, égalité, fraternité.” It’s tempting to ask whether they’re defending the liberty to break the law and skip town, respecting the equality of all before the law and championing a brotherhood of artists who can do no wrong. (Photo: Roman Polanski, 19 Feb 2009/Hannibal Hanschke)

Here in Paris, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared the arrest was “a bit sinister … frankly, (arresting) a man of such talent recognised around the world, recognised in the country where he was arrested — that’s not very nice.” He and his Polish counterpart have written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about the issue. Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said “just as there is a generous America that we like, there’s also an America that scares us, and that’s the America that has just shown us its face.” Directors, actors and intellectuals have been signing a petition demanding Polanski’s immediate release.

Almost all the focus is on the argument that Polanski is a brilliant director, the charge of unlawful sex with a 13-year old dates back to 1977 and the victim herself says she wants the whole issue to be forgotten.  Almost completely ignored is the fact that he fled the U.S. to escape sentencing, which added a crime to the original crime. There is such a widespread assumption that all artists and intellectuals would automatically support Polanski that Paris papers today — both the left-of-centre Libération and the conservative Le Figaro — wrote with an air of surprise that Hollywood was not storming the barricades to back him.

Saudi film festival cancelled in setback for reformers

saudi-film-festival1Saudi Arabia’s only film festival has been cancelled, dealing a blow to reformist hopes of an easing of clerical control over culture that had been raised by the low-key return of cinemas in December.  In a country where movie theatres had been banned for almost three decades, the annual Jeddah Film Festival — started in 2006 — presents aspiring Saudi film makers and actors with a rare opportunity to mingle with more experienced peers from other countries. (Photo: Jeddah Mayor Adel Fakieh speaks at Jeddah film festival, 18 July 2007/Susan Baaghil)

But the Jeddah governorate informed festival organisers late on Friday, just before its planned opening on Saturday,  that this year’s festival was cancelled “after it received instructions from official parties. We were not told why,” said Mamdouh Salem, one of its organisers.

Many religious conservatives in the kingdom believe films from more liberal Arab countries such as Egypt could violate religious taboos. Some also view cinema and acting, as a form of dissembling, as inconsistent with Islam.

Ex-nun urges Indian Catholic Church reform in tell-all book

amenA Roman Catholic nun who left her convent in India after 33 years of service has penned an unflattering picture of life within the cloistered walls in a book that may further embarrass the Church.

In “Amen: The Autobiography of a Nun”, published in India in English this month, Sister Jesme tells of sexual relations between some priests and nuns, homosexuality in the convent and discrimination and corruption in Catholic institutions…

“Amen” grabbed media headlines in February, when it was first published in Malayalam — the regional language of Kerala. With the new English edition and offers of a film based on the book, Sister Jesme’s plea for a reformation of the Church is now set to reach a wider audience.