By Paul Cheruthottupuram
NIEPOKALANOW, Poland – An Indian Salesian became the first Indian Jury member at the only surviving International Catholic Film Festival in the world. The Niepokalanow festival held its 24th uninterrupted screening, May 15-17, some 45 km west of Warsaw, capital of Poland. Fr C.M. Paul from Kolkata, a former member of Govt. of India`s Central Board of Film Certification (Kolkata) and former two term Signis-India president was part of the nine-member international jury.
“Traditionally the members of our International Jury in Niepokalanow are representatives of Signis Belarus and Signis Russia. Few years ago, Maria Cech from Germany visited us few times,“ says founder member and current vice-president of the festival Mr. Zygmunt Gutowski.
“It was excellent cooperation with Signis World office bearers like Fr Henk Hoekstra, Eichenberger, Molhant and Peter Malone,“ says Gutowski recalling the long term association with OCIC and Signis cooperation and awards during last 12 years (till 2006).
Incidentally, a short feature film entitled The Cash Book by a group of Kolkata youth received the Signis-Award at Niepokalanow in 2005.
The only Catholic Film Festival
There were 169 films at the festival from 21 countries representing the five continents. Of these, the Festival selection committee short listed 18 outstanding films for the finals. Besides feature film, other categories awarded were: documentary, educational, television and amateur films. The festival also featured multimedia, radio and YouTube productions.
The festival had its genesis in the heydays of Solidarnosc (Solidarity) the national resistance movement against the Polish Communist Regime, in 1985. A group of activists formed the Catholic Film Association of Poland as a cultural forum.
“Initially we wanted the Salesian Warsaw province to host the film festival, but several factors did not permit it,“ says Fr. Gregorio Jaskot of Warsaw, one of the founding members of the Niepokalanow festival and currently Assistant Economer of the UPS-Rome province.
The festival started under the guise of a spiritual retreat in the Franciscan (OFM Conv.) monastery at Niepokalanow, the national shrine of Mary Immaculate and the headquarters of the Militia Immaculate (Army of the Immaculate).
The Franciscan monastery at Niepokalanow (City of the Immaculate) was founded by St Maxmilliam Kolbe in 1927.
After the fall of Communism, Poland had its first democratically elected government in 1989.
Hindu Production Wins at Catholic Film Fest
“I am a Hindu and I have a lot of faith in Mother Mary. It [film] was made after much hard work and patience of 10 long years. Without seeking any financial help from anybody I produced it with my own funds,“ says film producer Kamalakar Rao after submitting the film Our Lady of Lourdes to the Niepokalanow festival.
The 95 minute film by the Sripriya International, Hyderabad production by director V.R. Gopinath tells the story of Bernadette Soubirous, a young village girl, to whom Our Lady appeared in 1858 at Lourdes (France).
Incidentally, the film produced in English language with locations in Kerala, Ireland and Lourdes has an international cast.
The film was screened at Lourdes, last year, during celebrations marking 150th anniversary of the apparitions.
The film is dubbed into French, Tamil, Malayalam, Hindi and Telugu.
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