Victor Hulbert recieving the special commendation award. [Photos: Religion Today film festival]

October 11, 2019 | Madonna di Campiglio, Italy. | Roberto Vacca.

The GAiN Europe network project, ‘Fathers’ received a special commendation at the 22nd Religion Today Film Festival, an event hosted annually in and around Trento in northern Italy.On Wednesday 9 October, an international jury presented awards to the very best of over 1,700 submissions to the festival. This was the climax of the nine-day event as film makers from across the world gathered in the small mountain town of Madonna di Campiglio to commend the 2019 winners.

“The quality of the films this year was very high,” said the founder, Lia Beltrami, who now acts as spiritual advisor to the event.

Winning entries came from as far away as Iran, China and Japan as well as closer to home. The winning films were chosen for their beauty and relevance regarding the topic of ‘mission’.

“Il vizio della speranza” (The Vice of Hope”) was awarded the overall grand prize. Andrea Morghen, the festival director, called it “a real hymn to life, prayer and resilience.” 

Other winners included ‘Carving the Divine’, a rare and intimate look into the woodcarving that is at the heart of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism, and ‘God’s Will, a fascinating short documentary from Serbia where four nuns meet a man with a suspicious past while out picking berries in the woods. How do you deal with a war criminal? Other films dealt with refugee issues, culture clashes in a diverse world, and questions on ethical issues such as the termination of life.

One film, the documentary “Fathers” was perhaps the most international of all, created as an idea by GAiN Europe participants and then executed by six film crews around the world under the expert direction of Adrian Duré, a film maker at the Adventist Media Centre, Stimme der Hoffnung, Germany. ‘Father’s’ was nominated for ‘best documentary’ and ‘Grand Prize in the Spirit of Faith’. While it was outshone for both those awards it nevertheless received a special commendation award from the Press Office jury of the festival.

Victor Hulbert, Communication and Media director of the Trans-European Division, represented the Church and the production team at the ceremony and was pleased with the result.

“There were 1,700 submissions, 62 were shortlisted. To be in that shortlist is an achievement. With high quality judges and an excellent selection of films we can stand tall simply for ‘Fathers’ to have been shown at the festival,” he said.

Talking with both judges and participants at the event, Hulbert noted the high regard participants had for the values of the film, “with a very strong voice emphasising the need for portraying Father’s in a positive light.” They noted that too many films involving fathers are about conflict and so appreciated this positive take on ‘good’ fathers. 

The judges included a representative of the Vatican Press office and top broadcasters and film makers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria and Russia.

Roberto Paglialonga from Rome personally took time to commend Hulbert for making a film on such an important topic, while M Hamid from Bangladesh was impressed at how it was possible for six film crews working in six different countries to be able to pull together a unified product.

“Fathers” is a warm-hearted documentary involving an international team with contributions ranging from Cuba to Australia. Six fathers participated in the documentary showing how different and yet how similar fathers are all over the world. The caring attitude of fathers towards their children, as portrayed in the film, can help to encourage a positive view of the role of fathers in the lives of their children, no matter which culture they belong to.

In my own history I think back to the 1950’s and two theology students who were expelled by the Italian Adventist seminary as they were discovered coming out of a local cinema. While we have to be careful of our choices, I have to state that today I am both surprised and proud of my Church. It has made a long and difficult cultural and spiritual journey in order to offer the values of the Gospel to a secular world, using technology to reach out with our positive message and values. Sharing our message in the wider marketplace simply follows that lead example of the God who loved so much that he “gave His only Son” for our salvation and the salvation of our families.

Watch 'Fathers' here.

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