1961's King of Kings, an epic costume drama about the life of Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter) will be at the festival. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer financed this ambitious remake of the 1927 silent film The King of Kings following the studio's blockbuster success with 1959's Christian-themed Ben-Hur"

Religious films showcased at Hollywood festival

By  Joseph McAleer, Catholic News Service
  • April 24, 2016

NEW YORK – Religious movies with a Catholic focus will be among those showcased at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood April 28-May 1.

Hosted by the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, the annual festival, now in its seventh year, offers an extensive lineup of vintage titles. The event also features appearances by stars (Gina Lollobrigida, Faye Dunaway) and filmmakers (Francis Ford Coppola) as well as presentations, panel discussions and more.

This year's theme, "Moving Pictures," highlights films that, according to the organizers, "bring us to tears, rouse us to action, inspire us, even project us to a higher plane, from coming-of-age pictures to terminal tear-jerkers, from powerful sports dramas we feel in our bones to religious epics that elevate our spirits."

"Religious films are such an important part of film history," noted Charles Tabesh, TCM's senior vice president of programming, in a telephone interview with Catholic News Service.

"There have been good ones, and not so good ones, and some real true classics. This is one of those categories that we always wanted to dive into a bit more, but it was never a natural fit with our past festival themes."

Saints, sinners, priests, nuns and even the Lord Himself are featured in the festival's lineup.

A likely high point will be the screening of the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc, which historians and critics alike regard as one of the finest movies ever made.

Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer has been praised for his cutting-edge cinematography, conveying emotion through extreme close-ups of his star, Maria Falconetti, as she portrayed the Maid of Orleans during her trial and execution.

A live orchestra and choir will accompany the picture. They'll present composer Richard Einhorn's 1994 oratorio "Voices of Light," which was inspired by Dreyer's work.

"It's a visually stunning film, and the score is especially beautiful," Tabesh said.

Film reviewer Sr. Rose Pacatte, a Daughter of St. Paul who is director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies, will introduce two movies. The Song of Bernadette (1943) — based on Franz Werfel's 1941 novel and newly restored by 20th Century Fox — features Jennifer Jones' Oscar-winning performance as St. Bernadette Soubirous, the visionary of Lourdes.

The second film, 1961's King of Kings, is an epic costume drama about the life of Jesus (Jeffrey Hunter). Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer financed this ambitious remake of the 1927 silent film The King of Kings following the studio's blockbuster success with 1959's Christian-themed Ben-Hur"

Pacatte recently hosted "Condemned," a month-long series of 27 films shown on TCM, all of them deemed objectionable by the former National Legion of Decency. (Catholic News Service's Media Review Office is the Legion's present-day successor organization.)

The festival also will see the world premiere of a restoration of 1944's The Keys of the Kingdom, adapted from the 1941 best-seller by A.J. Cronin. Gregory Peck received his first Oscar nomination for his moving portrayal of a priest who goes to China as a missionary and finds fulfilment evangelizing the poor.

Lastly, the 2015 journalism drama Spotlight, (winner of the Best Picture Oscar) will be included in a unique way. The film, which tracks the uncovering of the clergy abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston by a team of reporters on the staff of that city's Globe newspaper, has frequently been compared to the Watergate dramatization All the President's Men.

Spotlight director and co-writer Tom McCarthy will join his script collaborator, Josh Singer, for a discussion marking the 40th anniversary of the earlier movie.

"It was Carl Bernstein who suggested we connect the two films," Tabesh observed, referring to the Washington Post reporter whose investigative partnership with colleague Bob Woodward is celebrated in All the President's Men. Bernstein will also speak at the festival screening.

For more information on the TCM Classic Film Festival, visit www.tcm.com/festival.

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