Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Divine spirit at the SVSFF

Second annual Spiritual Film Fest finds an audience with a quest for spirituality

For the Express

You never get to see everything at a film festival, but what you do see and hear can change your life. Last weekend's Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival, now in its second year, was no exception, providing a tour of the world's spiritual traditions from every perspective: historic, esoteric, musical and romantic. The spiritual search may lead to a far corner of the world, to a dance with the divine or to the person standing next to you in line.

After watching 40 feature and documentary films from around the world, festival goers packed the Sun Valley Opera House for a panel discussion on "Spirituality in America." The discussion addressed the hunger we have for stories that connect us to the deeper meanings of life and the opportunity filmmakers have as educators and storytellers during a critical time for world media.

Matthew Fox, a former Dominican priest and author of 28 books on spiritual matters, told the audience, "Film making is the language of our time. The language of the post-modern generation is images. We have an astounding new cosmology. We know now we all share a 14 billion-year common history, and here we are killing one another for no reason whatsoever. We bore our children to death and call it education."

Nathan Katz, director of spiritual studies at Florida International University, said, "If you understand only one religion, you understand none. Spirituality is deeper than language. Doctrines and dogmas are very surface."

Sharon Janis, a filmmaker and author of "Spirituality for Dummies," expressed a desire to get started on the right foot. "To change the world it is important to proceed from a place of peace," she said. "We are lucky to have these spiritual traditions, which offer a door to that connection."

Filmmaker Steve Crisman screened a preview of his upcoming film, "Jerusalem," for audiences on Saturday. He expressed the sobering experience he had in that city, where he interviewed religious leaders for a film he hopes will take them to task on the original purpose of their religious traditions: "to spread peace." They each said, "that this land was given to them by God. There was no ecumenical feeling between them at all."

Crisman's film and others like them may shed some light on the darker corners of faith, while encouraging leaders to work toward tolerance, peace and that thing called spirituality. The Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival brought illumination this week to far corners of the globe. It also brought us closer to the immediate and universal need for human understanding. It even brought a bit of romance back into the spiritual quest. As the Very Reverend Brian Baker said during Sunday's panel discussion, "I think this thing has legs."


Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival Awards handed out included: Best Spiritual Film—"The Big Question." Best Children's Spiritual Film—"Peace Tree." Best New Director—"Un Buda"

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