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City of Angels Film Festival 2007 wrap up story

At the end of October each year, the Christian churches, theological seminaries and universities are active in film events. The occasion is the Festival of the City of Angels.

This is a theme festival, rather than competition. It was inaugurated in 1993 after the Rodney King riots. The churches got together to offer something positive and constructive for the city. Since Hollywood is in Los Angeles, the decision was to hold an annual film festival as a gift to the city. The festival runs from Friday evening to Sunday evening and has a theme each year. The 2007 theme was "Justice ... for All?" The final question mark is significant.

While a number of feature films were screened including Bella , Water and Unforgiven , a great deal of emphasis was given to documentaries. The tough subjects ranged from the Sudan to the exoneration of a prisoner after 19 years in a Carolina prison for a murder he did not commit. There was also an arresting title, What would Jesus buy? . The film was comic but also serious in its critique of the over-the-top (as well as the ordinary) consumer pressures and buying in the US, especially with the commercialisation of Christmas. Each film was introduced and a panel discussion, usually with the film-makers, followed each screening.

However, the Festival of the City of Angels is host to several other events which are important for the Catholic Academy for Communications Arts Professionals which is the US affiliate of SIGNIS International.

The first of these is the awarding of the Academy’s Gabriel Awards. These are for radio and television excellence (in English language programs and Hispanic) and draw submissions from all over the US and Canada. There are also film awards and tribute awards. 2007 saw a special award to Catherine Hardwicke, director of The Nativity Story , a life award to Micheal Flaherty, co-founder and president of Walden Media (who made such films as Narnia and The Bridge to Terabithia ). Sr Rose Pacatte FSP also received an achievement award on this occasion from the National Telemedia Council.

Family Theater (founded by Fr Patrick Peyton CSC) is a member of the Academy and of SIGNIS. Each year, during the Festival of the City of Angels, Family Theater presents its Angelus awards to student films. These come in from all over the world and the standard is very high. The winners are screened in a special program. Maryknoll presents an award for the best documentary and the Catholic Academy an award for the best animation. The 2007 winner of the $2500 award from the Academy was Zeth Willie of New York for his The Needful Head .

Sr Rose Pacatte (left) and Peter Malone (right) of SIGNIS giving the Venice SIGNIS Award to acclaimed director Paul HaggisFor several years, Fuller Theological Seminary has presented a day of seminars and discussion, "Reel Spirituality". They have joined with the Los Angeles Christian screenwriting program, Act One, and this year focussed on writing for television.

Catholics in Media, a strong group of those involved in all aspects of media, has recently become a member of the Catholic Academy and, in recent years, a number of their members have participated in SIGNIS and Ecumenical Juries at festivals in Europe. They support a seminar during the City of Angels Festival with the group Open Call. In 2006, a panel discussed "Are Horror Films Catholic?" (with the answer veering towards a ‘yes’). The topic this year was "Where is the Love", a discussion by critics about the responses from their readership, especially on controversial issues. The panel consisted of Claudia Puig, critic for USA Today, Eleonora Granata Jenkinson, selector of American entries for the Venice Film Festival, Jonathan Bock, of Grace Hill Media and Peter Malone from SIGNIS.

Catholics in Media also make awards. This year their feature film award went to Paul Haggis for In the Valley of Elah . This film also won the SIGNIS prize at the 2007 Venice Film Festival. Since Paul Haggis was not in Venice to receive his medal, Sisters Rose Pacatte and Mary Paul Curley with Peter Malone were invited to his home in Santa Monica to give him his award. His film (and his reflections on it in conversation) is very topical with its themes of Iraq and the effect on the homecoming military.

Peter Malone - Signis


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