A new film about Fatima, a history-spanning documentary featuring George Weigel and Robert George, and a film on the life of a woman close to Pope John Paul II are among the films selected for the inaugural John Paul II International Film Festival in Miami, running Oct. 29 - Nov. 7.
Organized by three Florida Catholics, the John Paul II International Film Festival “John Paul II International Film Festival” is intended to highlight less-noticed films that celebrate themes of human dignity, forgiveness and hope.
Rafael Anrrich, a social worker, and Laura Alvarado and Frank William Brennan cite the teaching and spirit of Pope John Paul II as their inspiration, but have solicited film submissions from both Catholics and non-Catholics, and hope to draw audiences from all backgrounds.
Among Catholic-produced selections are Metanoia Films’ Bella, an award-winning pro-life film about an unplanned pregnancy; 13th Day Productions’ The 13th Day, an innovative new film on the 1917 Marian apparitions at Fatima and the “Miracle of the Sun”; Grassroots Films’ The Human Experience, an existential exploration of the meaning of life and how people think about it; and Duska, Wanda Rozycka’s film about Wanda Poltawska, a spiritual “sister” of John Paul II who survived medical experiments at the Nazi camp at Ravensbrueck and experienced an extraordinary recovery from cancer after the future Pope (then bishop of Krakow) wrote to Padre Pio asking for his prayers for her.
Protestant-sponsored and other films include Global Creative’s Faith Like Potatoes, a story of hidden faith in South Africa; PureFlix’s The Wager, a morality tale set in Hollywood; Miramax’s The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a Holocaust fable about two boys separated by a Nazi barbed wire fence; and HBO’s Taking Chance, a story of honor and death in the Iraqi war.
Festival sponsors include the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Florida State University’s Program in the Study of Spirituality, as well as Starbucks Coffee.
Speaking by phone, Alvarado and Anrrich pointed to John Paul II’s 1999 Letter to Artists as well as the young Karol Wojtyla’s love of the stage and his involvement in the Rhapsodic Theater, an underground cultural resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Krakow, as their guiding influences.
“There are some filmmakers out there who have a conscience that’s telling them, ‘You need to use your art to better the situation,’” Alvarado noted. “People are willing and ready to work together to help this festival to bring that message across. Especially in Miami … What better place to bring something like this than a place that hungers and is lacking so much of it?”
Anrrich and Brennan emphasized their hope of extending the festival concept to other art forms — music, theater, visual arts — under the patronage of Pope John Paul II.