In a remarkable life that has progressed from studying film to reviewing films to making films, Wim Wenders has documented the lives of forgotten Cuban jazz musicians (in Buena Vista Social Club), explored the value of truth (in Paris, Texas) asked what really makes us human (in Wings of Desire) and shown us the value of making something, even something as impermanent as dance (in Pina).

Published in Arts News

VATICAN CITY – What do the Sistine Chapel, a used car with 186,000 miles on the odometer and a statue of Our Lady of Lujan made out of metal from an abandoned factory have in common?

Published in Movie News

Finding peace in the birthplace of Christ has been an elusive mission, but one that Leila Sansour has taken on with determined vigour through her documentary film Open Bethlehem.

Published in Youth Speak News

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is over, but the call to mercy lives on.

Published in Movie News

CHICAGO, Ill. – Two Emmy Awards have gone to a documentary that shows St. John Paul II’s central role in the end of communism.

Published in Movie News

TORONTO – A blockbuster lineup headlined the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) this year, but among the lesser known films drawing attention was one featuring Pope Francis, Fidel Castro and Barack Obama.

Published in Movie News

For 17 years, Hamilton, Ont.’s St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School students have been helping dreams come true in the global south. This year, it is being captured on film.

Published in Youth Speak News

When Brian Dunn became the chaplaincy leader at the new Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School in Milton, Ont., he had a mission to create an environment where the school namesake’s example dwelled within the students.

Published in Youth Speak News

Pro-life versus pro-choice has dominated the abortion debate for as long as the issue has been around. A new documentary film hopes to go beyond that debate.

Published in Canada

You might think Heaven and hell are a matched set — you can’t have one without the other. But the post-modern mind seems to have decoupled two of the most basic and universal religious ideas in human history, according to the writer and host of Hell: A Survivor’s Guide.

Published in Movie News

TORONTO - My Brother’s Vows gives us the story of siblings who are running — one towards the Catholic Church and the other away from it. 

Published in Movie News

TORONTO - The complexity, heartbreak and bitter politics of the endless Palestinian-Israeli conflict are no reason for Christians to either settle for easy answers or to throw up their hands in despair. The situation calls for Christian charity and solidarity, Cardinal Thomas Collins told a packed theatre in Toronto Sept. 5.

Collins was on hand for the Toronto premiere of the Salt + Light TV documentary Across the Divide. The full-length documentary takes a close look at Bethlehem University — the only Catholic post-secondary institution in the Holy Land — and the trials of fourth-year commerce student Berlanty Azzam. Azzam was caught up in a maze of Israeli military security procedures that saw her detained and prevented from returning to Bethlehem to finish her degree.

Azzam's detention by Israeli forces while she was on her way to a job interview in Ramallah became an international incident in 2009. The case blew up while Salt + Light producer Kris Dmytrenko and a crew were on the Bethlehem University campus making a film about the Christian Brothers and their 39-year-old university just outside Jerusalem.

If the Church has to pick a side, it chooses to stand with the poor and the refugees, said Collins in a panel discussion after the screening. Collins was a participating bishop in the Synod on the Middle East in 2010.

"We have to help them," said Collins, who has spearheaded efforts by Canadian dioceses to sponsor Iraqi refugees displaced by the turmoil in their homeland. "We would prefer, of course, that they can flourish in their home."

The whole point of Bethlehem University is that it is a means for Palestinians — Chistians and Muslims — to flourish where they are, said Robert Smith, the university's vice chancellor. The university's student body is about 70 per cent Muslim and 30 per cent Christian.

"They (graduates) will be trained and professional and committed to build a nation as well as a Church," he said.

Dmytrenko, co-director of Across the Divide, warned against the temptation to name good guys and bad guys in the conflict.

"There's a lot of people suffering on both sides," he said. "It's not a case of who is suffering more."

"People think that all Muslims are terrorists trying to get rid of all Christians. That's not true," said Catholic Near East Welfare Association Canada director Carl Hetu.

As a Maronite Catholic from Lebanon, it was important to Mona Dagher to be at the documentary's premiere.

"I would hope that people will at least know what is going on there," said Dagher.

She praised the film for accurately depicting the lives of Palestinian Christians.

Ajax high school teacher Deanna Wilson said she plans to show the movie to her Grade 12 World Religions class.

"We have an obligation to open our lens to other religions and realities," she said.

She hopes particularly that her comfortable, suburban teens are moved by Azzam's struggle to get an education.

"There are a lot of details I wasn't aware of," said Danny Ferguson at the end of the evening. "It's important to understand the political environment."

"This gets the word out. This gets out the truth and the fullness of the truth," said Smith.

"Our purpose in making this documentary was not to convince. It was simply to tell a story," Salt + Light CEO Fr. Tom Rosica told the audience.

Rosica said he's received calls from committed advocates for both sides in the conflict — Palestinians, Jews and their allies — all equally unhappy with the film. But rather than buying into the rhetoric of the conflict the film strives to accurately fill in the political, economic, social and religious reality Bethlehem University struggles with daily.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

WASHINGTON - Paul Loong was determined to survive the POW camps where he was held by the Japanese for three years. While imprisoned, Loong kept a journal that had a chance of surviving him if he never made it out alive.

But Loong did. And he made his way to the United States, got married and had a daughter, Theresa, who accidentally stumbled upon her father's journal. She eventually picked up a video camera and started asking him questions about what he had written when he was in captivity.

The result is an hourlong documentary, "Every Day Is a Holiday," which airs in May and June on public television stations. (Check local listings for dates and times.)

Published in Features

Fr. Michael Prieur has lived at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ont., for more than 50 years. For 40 of those years, he never paid attention to the stained glass windows in the chapel.

“And then one day I wondered why St. Jerome was dressed up like a cardinal when there was no such outfit in the days that he lived,” Prieur told The Catholic Register.

Published in Arts News

I’m sorry. In writing about a controversial documentary earlier this month (Dramatic Jesus Discovery documentary lacks hard evidence), I never should have brought up the Resurrection in such an offhand way. I should never have imagined the Resurrection could be explained in a single paragraph of a newspaper article.

Simcha Jacobovici’s documentary The Jesus Discovery provocatively asked “what if” a tomb now under an apartment complex in Jerusalem actually contains the bones of Jesus and His family. In my review, I took the bait and posed the question to myself.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA
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