JP II International Film Festival, starting tomorrow in Miami, promises something of interest for the entire family.
This year’s event, themed “Mystery of Love,” will feature seventeen full length films and documentaries, as well as ten short films from the United States, Europe, South America and India.
Among the lineup of faith-based films are: Rust, starring Corbin Bernsen as a former pastor who comes to the aid of a childhood friend accused of a crime; a free showing of Ramona and Beezus, based on the Beverly Cleary book series and starring Selena Gomez; and Oscar’s Cuba, the story of Cuban dissident, political prisoner and pro-life Christian, Dr. Oscar Biscet, who is serving a 25-year sentence for promoting human rights.
Festival organizers say they got the idea for the festival from the late Pope, who in his “Letter to Artists” in 1999 encouraged Catholic participation in the arts and challenged artists to respond to the world’s hunger for Truth, Love and Peace through the use of their God-given craft. A recent article in the Archdiocese of Miami website describes how the concept was born.
“People don’t normally think that faith-based films equal art, but our festival proves just that,” said Laura Alvarado, the festival coordinator. “Our festival’s mission is to prove that these incredible stories and high caliber films have an audience, and we encourage them to step up and be counted.”The festival kicks-off with an opening night reception at the Coral Gables Art Cinema (tomorrow, February 17), followed by world premiere documentary, Out of the Darkness, directed by Sean Finnegan. The film is about the true story of Shelley Lubben, who went from pornographic film actress to Christianity and now is committed to evangelizing her former industry.
Rafael Anrrich, co-founder of the festival, is a mental and behavioral health therapist in Miami. Born to Catholic parents, he turned away from the faith in his late 20s but said he felt a strong call to return to the Church after John Paul II’s death.
In early 2009, he met Alvarado and Frank Brennan while leading a retreat, named Mystery Love, for the Jubilee Youth Group of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Miami. Anrrich shared with them the idea of starting a film festival named after the late pope, and it came into fruition in 2009 with the theme “Faith through the Storm.”
Alvarado is a trained actress, singer and graduate of the New World School of the Arts in Miami. She and Brennan founded 7eventhDay Films, where she has acted in and produced three independent films. Brennan, the film coordinator, is a screenwriter, film editor and aspiring independent film director. The two were married in August 2010.
As Alvarado and Brennan began marriage preparations last year, they said they began to see how hungry the world was for true love.
“The team began to really delve into John Paul II’s teaching on Theology of the Body and the festival’s theme became more than a tribute, it became our mission,” said Alvarado. “We set out to find films of incredible caliber that could best decipher the meaning of love.”
Closing night (Saturday, February 26) will also include a gala and awards ceremony at Florida International University’s Diaz-Balart Hall and the showing of Nine Days that Changed the World, a documentary directed by Kevin Knoblock and produced by former U.S. Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich and his wife, about the impact of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland in 1979 and the subsequent collapse of communism there.
For the full lineup of films, times, ticket information and venues see the festival's official web site.