Uncomfortable films

Uncomfortable films

Germany's only ecumenical film festival is tackling red-hot topics on its tenth anniversary: Refugee misery, abuse in the church, religious fanaticism. And also honors one of the industry's greats.

Cannes, Venice, Berlin – Recklinghausen? No, not even fans of the church film festival in the Ruhr area city make such a comparison. And yet: the cinema event in Recklinghausen, which has been held annually in March since 2010, is something very special.

It is not only Germany's first church film festival, but the only ecumenical one anywhere. Organized by the Arbeitskreis Kirche Kino of the Protestant church district and the Catholic district deanery of Recklinghausen, it has become a firm fixture in the cinema year among film buffs and critics alike.

No "light fare"

And they really don't get to see any "light fare" here. The festival dares itself and its guests to make uncomfortable films, write the Westphalian President Annette Kurschus and Munster's Bishop Felix Genn, who have taken over the patronage, in their invitation. "Because it needs these formats that show us where it gets uncomfortable, that don't let us look away when people drown on the run, when weaker people are oppressed."Films would be shown that make clear that solidarity, justice and humanity are needed for a just life.

Directors and actors will be present during the festival days and available for discussions. 16 films come between 20. and 24. March for performance. Included is the documentary "#Female Pleasure" (CH/D 2018). Director Barbara Miller tells of five young women from five world cultures. They fight against traditions of their respective religions that are hostile to the body and to women. The comedy "What did we do to deserve this?" is also about women and religion?" (A 2018; Director: Eva Spreitzhofer). In it, Caroline Peters plays a feminist and mother of a pubescent daughter who announces she wants to become a Muslim.

A film that goes to the pit of the stomach is certainly "Iuventa: Sea Rescue" (D/I 2018; directed by Michele Cinque), a documentary about the "mass grave of the Mediterranean", where since 2017 more than 17.000 people lost their lives fleeing to Europe. It presents the initiative "Jugend Rettet" (Youth Save), which uses an old fishing boat to sail over 14.000 people rescued from distress at sea. Their ship was seized by Italian authorities in 2017.

Drama about three abuse victims

Things are also getting uncomfortable for the church: "Praised be God" (F 2019; directed by Francois Ozon) is a topical drama about three victims of abuse by a Catholic priest in Lyon. The background is the case of priest Bernard Preynat, who allegedly sexually assaulted underage children in more than 80 cases in the 1980s. In early March, Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was given a six-month suspended sentence for failing to report the sexual assaults.

Also from France comes "The House by the Sea" (F 2017; directed by Robert Guediguian): three siblings meet after years in a small town near Marseille to discuss what to do with their father's house after his death. A "profound comedie humaine about the pain, but also the chances of change, when life plans and relationships are put to the test," judges the Catholic Film Service.

The documentary "Of Fathers and Sons" (D/LIB/SYR 2017), which was nominated for the "Oscar", is announced as a festival highlight. Filmmaker Talal Derki posed as a journalist with sympathies for the Salafists and spent two years filming firsthand a Syrian family whose head raises his sons to become caliphate fighters. The film receives the "Ecumenical Film Award" of the festival.

Honor for Wim Wenders

And finally, the festival honors a great man of the industry: director Wim Wenders (73) is awarded the Honorary Prize of the Ecclesiastical Film Festival for his life's work. "We are also a bit proud that he accepts our award and will be screened on Sunday (24. March) will be our guest," say the organizers.

In his luggage, Wenders has two of his masterpieces: first, "Der Himmel uber Berlin" (D/F 1986/87) with the recently deceased Bruno Ganz in the role of an angel with the desire to experience the world as a human being. On the other hand, the documentary film "Pope Francis" (D/I 2918) and his demands for solidarity with the poor and for a respectful treatment of creation.

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