- Festival of Mannheim-Heidelberg 2012: Interview with Kadija Leclere
- 27th Mar del Plata International Film Festival 2012
- Festroia International Film Festival 2012
- San Sebastian International Film Festival 2012
- Miskolc Film Festival Hosts International Ecumenical Media Conference
- Hong Kong 2012: "The Soul is Healed by Being with Children"
- Insight Film Festival Announces Call for Submissions
- Mostra 2011: A SIGNIS Film Juror in Venice
- A glimpse at Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011
- A Season of Visions at ZIFF 2011
- Festroia 2011: Humans Deal with Traumatic Events
- Las Palmas Festival 2011: Diversity, Risk-taking and Coherence
- Call for Entries for the 3rd Insight Faith Festival
- Call for Entries: 3rd Iñigo Film Festival for Short Films Made by Young People
- Short Film Festival by SIGNIS Impacts Young Film Makers in Tamil Nadu State
- San Sebastian 2010: A Film Festival Focusing on the Human Condition of Life
- Angelus Student Film Festival Celebrates 15th Anniversary
- Highlights of the Venice Film Festival 2010
- "I Bring What I Love" Opens ZIFF 2010, Sponsored by SIGNIS
- Festroia 2010: Figures in a European Landscape
- Fajr 2010: An Interreligious Jury in Iran
- The Insight Film Festival
- Molodist 2009: Mothers Abandoning their Children
- Festroia 2009: Year 25
- Golden Apricot Film Festival of Yerevan 2009: Films about Borders, Peace and Children’s rights
- Karlovy Vary 2009: An Ecumenical Juror Reports on the Festival
- Toulouse: 21st Festival of Latin American Cinemas
- SIGNIS To Hold First Film Jury at a US Festival - Filmfest DC
- The Social and Political Commitment of the Amiens International Film Festival 2008
- OCIC/SIGNIS: Sixty Years in Venice
- An Ecumenical Juror’s Film Journey in Locarno 2008
- Karlovy Vary 2008: Love is a battlefield...
- 2nd Iñigo Festival Showcased the Work of Young Filmmakers at WYD 2008
- Festroia 2008: Finding Personal Meaning through Relationships in an Alienating World
- BAFICI 2008
- Angelus - From Hollywood to Rome
- Magnificat 2008: 4th International Catholic Festival of Christian Films and TV Programs
- An American Ecumenical Juror Reflects on Berlinale 2008
- 58th Berlin Film Festival Salutes Six Independent Filipino Films
- German Media Bishop Speaks of the Future of Cinema
- 2nd Inigo Short Film Festival: Call for Entries
- Spirituality Cinema in Iran
- Call for Submissions: Youth Producing Change at HRWIFF
- City of Angels Film Festival 2007
- SIGNIS Romania Completes 3rd Facing Children Festival
- Facing Children Festival 2007
- Redemption Central Theme in Venice 2007
- Brisbane: Interfaith Prize for Human Trafficking Drama
- SIGNIS Celebrates 50 years in the San Sebastian Film Festival by Honouring Volker Schlöndorff
- Yerevan, the Golden Apricot Festival
- Mother Teresa Statue & Film Festival in Berhampore
- Human Relations, Cultural Diversity and Painful Memories
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- Fajr Festival: Coexistence of Christians and Muslims in Iran
- GoEast Symposium: Film and Religion in Eastern Europe
- Sevilla 2006: Focus on European Cinema
- 3rd Week of Spiritual Cinema in Barcelona
- Facing Children: A Festival organised by SIGNIS Romania in collaboration with UNICEF
- The 1st Edition of the Rome Cinema Festival - Diversity and Reciprocity
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Hong Kong 2012: "The Soul is Healed by Being with Children"
Hong Kong, April 4, 2012 (Karel Deburchgrave) - "The soul is healed by being with children." This proverb, inspired by the great Russian novelist Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881), sums up the main theme of the three films selected by the SIGNIS jury at the Hong Kong International Film Festival 2012.
The 36th annual Hong Kong International Film Festival screened 283 films from 50 countries. The SIGNIS Award went to Monsieur Lazhar , directed by Philippe Falardeau (Canada). His Eminence, Cardinal John Tong, Bishop of Hong Kong, presented the trophy during the awards gala April 3, 2012 with applause from the large audience in the Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.
Both I Wish from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and Declaration of War , directed by Valérie Donzelli (France), received Special Commendations by the SIGNIS jury. The three SIGNIS films handle topics that are appealing both to adolescents and adults. Seldom have I seen films that deal with divorce, serious illness and suicide in such an honest and convincing way. These three films speak to the heart and at the same time avoid the traps of simplicity and sentimentality. They are ideal for film forum discussions: relatively easy to understand and cinematographically thought-provoking with interesting themes to talk about. You could consider each of these films as an illustration of a common aphorism.
"Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate"
The parents in Kore-eda’s I Wish (2011) have failed to give their two sons something great to imitate: they are divorced. Twelve years old Koichi moved with his mother to his grandparents in the south of Japan whereas his little brother lives with his father in the north. I Wish tells the story of these two young brothers searching for a miracle to bring their separated parents back together. Will they find it in the meeting of two new bullet trains? Koichi believes the powerful force generated by the two trains passing in opposite directions at high speed will work his miracle. Hence the Japanese film title of the film, Kiseki, the literal translation of ‘miracle’. Japanese director Kore-eda is back with his favourite ‘left behind’ theme. In Nobody Knows (2004) a reckless single mother leaves behind a little money and a note in her apartment, asking her 12-year old son to look after the other three children whose existence has been hidden from the landlord. In this sombre and gloomy story Kore-eda learned to work with children in confinement. In I Wish he sends his children in the wide open world where grandfathers make traditional sponge cakes and an hospitable couple caringly and lovingly accommodates them. This heart warming film full of hope and joy is brilliantly performed by a group of young, talented actors.
"Nothing you do for children is ever wasted."
Director Valerie Donzelli and scriptwriter Jérémie Elkaïm did a lot for their child when it fell seriously ill. In Declaration of War (2011), based on what actually happened to them, they play the couple Romeo and, inescapably, Juliette who have declared war on an illness you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. The family fights the battle against their child’s brain tumour together, optimistically, with ups and downs during treatment. They lose their jobs and have to sell their apartment but never give up. This film might easily have become a gloomy hospital movie, a sad melodrama or a heroic ‘love conquers everything’ story. Instead, this film surprisingly presents the healing process of the child in a humorous way. Just like the French Intouchables (2011) or the American 50/50 (2011) this film does not exclusively focus on the quadriplegic or the 27-year-old boy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, but takes the point of view of people surrounding the victim. In order to beat the disease humour avoids pathos and self pity in the face of the ordeal. Romeo and Juliette even sing a comforting duet to each other that sounds like an homage to the Nouvelle Vague. In Declaration of War director Valerie Donzelli shows the importance of family values such as love, tolerance and unity to overcome difficulties in our contemporary society.
"While adults try to teach children all about life, children teach us what life is all about"
When a Canadian teacher commits suicide in the classroom of an elementary school in Montreal, Algerian refugee Bachir Lazhar takes over the lessons. Bachir lost his family in Algeria and gradually the teacher and the traumatized pupils find a way to help each other cope with death. Monsieur Lazhar (2012) is an intricate mixture of inter-related themes.
It is a film that explores various topics: loss, death-denial, bullying at school, no touching rules and exile. It is also a film about the truths we tell our children and about the fact that, while we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about. At first sight, this Canadian film sounds like a potential minefield for a shameless melodrama; a tearjerker about a new teacher with a different cultural background stepping into his distressed pupils’ lives. Far from it! Bachir Lazhar is no super teacher like Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society (1989) who jumps on his desk to inspire the youngsters. Nor does he try to win his pupils’ trust with karate demonstrations like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds (1995). Actually, Bachir Lazhar is a very traditional teacher arranging the school desks into rows instead of semicircles and quoting a dictation from Balzac’s La peau de chagrin. From his pupils Bachir learns that Jack London’s White Fang would be more appropriate. No wonder he makes these mistakes: Bachir has no teaching certificate. The didactical principles he practices come from his beloved wife, his own pupils and his authentic instincts. These instincts allow him to face the children’s emotions with much greater awareness than the school’s professional guidance. Bachir reaches out to his pupils: he helps them and they help him. That’s why his pupils spontaneously decide to shout ‘Bashiiiiiiiiiiir!’ instead of ’Cheeeeeeese!’ for their classroom photograph.
As a classroom film Monsieur Lazhar (2012) is a subtle feel good movie; in every way the opposite of Tony Kaye’s feel bad movie Detachment (2011). Both ask the question whether concerned teachers can make a difference. In the end, Detachment compares the school system to nothing less than Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre short story The Fall the House of Usher: "a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit". Monsieur Lazhar ends with Bachir hugging his pupil after having corrected his own uplifting fable l’Arbre et la chrysalide (The tree and the chrysalis) about life undergoing transformation. Children are like butterflies in the wind. Some can fly higher than others, But each one flies the best it can.
The SIGNIS Award went to this sensitive gem.
SIGNIS Awards have been introduced to HKIFF since 2004 and are given to films for cinematic excellence in expressing social and humanitarian concerns, as well as spiritual and artistic values. The members of the SIGNIS Jury were: Karel Deburchgrave (Belgium), Sikares Sirakan (Thailand), Catherine Wong (Hong Kong).