Tomorrow, April 2 we celebrate the 9th anniversary of the death of Bl. Pope John Paul II. The next day, is day-one of this year’s John Paul II International Film Festival, which has been taking place every year since 2009 in Miami, Florida.
The inter-faith Festival is inspired by Pope John Paul II’s invitation to promote Love, Truth, Unity, and Human Dignity though the use of film and media, and features filmmakers from around the world in an effort to enrich the mainstream film industry with works that highlight the beauty of our humanity.
Because of his love of the arts and to his deep understanding of the arts, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter in 1999 encouraging artists of all kinds and faiths to use their talents to uplift society, to teach and preach human dignity, and unveil the mystery of Man and God alike. The JP2IFF was founded 10 years later as an answer to this invitation and to challenge filmmakers and the community to do the same: To use their gifts to create a deeper understanding of our human race, no matter what our religious, cultural, or economic background may be.
Every year the festival has a theme. Past themes have been “Faith Through the Storm” (2009), “Mystery of Love” (2011) and “Revelation” (2012). This year’s theme is “Inspiration”, taken directly from JPII’s Letter to Artists. In it he wrote:
What is the affinity between the words ‘breath – breathing’ and ‘inspiration’? The Spirit is the mysterious Artist of the universe. I would hope that all artists might receive in abundance the gift of that creative inspiration which is the starting point of every true work of art.
It’s no surprise that people all over hunger for meaning, and more and more we turn to the TV and to cineplexes looking for meaning. It’s clear that film has the power to inspire like no other medium. I can think of the many films that have been imprinted on me; that have moved me, challenging me to be the best version of myself. Film can also capture beauty like no other medium. Inspiration is the taking in of beauty, allowing it to transform you. At its best, a film’s beauty can leave a lasting imprint on the human character.
And not just this year, but every year the JP2IFF presents films that inspire us, films that reveal such splendid beauty that we are compelled to breathe in their message, allowing it to transform our thoughts, feelings, and give us something new to exhale into the world.
This is also our hope here at Salt + Light. In 2009 among the Festival’s selections was the S+L TV production, Road of Hope: The Spiritual Journey of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan. This year, among the many feature length and short dramatic and documentary films from Ecuador, France, Germany, Iran, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South America, Spain, the UK and the U.S. the S+L TV production In Her Footsteps: The Story of Kateri Tekakwitha has been selected for the festival.
Among other selected feature films are: Francis: The Pope from the New World (The Knights of Columbus); Gimme Shelter (Day Twenty-Eight Films) and Heaven Is For Real (Tri-Star). In the short film category, the Canadian The Mary Contest by Vancouver’s Teresa McGee, has also been selected.
The 10-day Festival runs from April 3-12, 2014 and includes not just film screenings, but also panel discussions, professional seminars, and multi-cultural music and art events.
I’d like to encourage all of you who are in the Miami area, to support the festival and the films by attending. In doing so, you’ll be encouraging all these professional and up-and-coming filmmakers to better their craft. You’ll also be encouraging the making of films that share messages of hope, triumph and love and that uplift the spirit. You can purchase tickets and see the Festival schedule at the Festival’s website.