World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

You are here: Home / Press centre / News / The cinema comes to church as film critics join in Nyon prayers, reflection

The cinema comes to church as film critics join in Nyon prayers, reflection

The cinema comes to church as film critics join in Nyon prayers, reflection

The cinema comes to church. Photo: Peter Kenny/WCC

08 April 2019

The cinema came to church at the Nyon Temple on the banks of Lake Geneva on Sunday with a big turnout for the ecumenical service to celebrate 50 years of the Nyon International Film Festival, Visions du Reel, and the now ubiquitous Interreligious Prize.

The historic Protestant church in Nyon dates to the 7th century and was packed for the 7 April service for the Interreligious Jury of Signis, the Roman Catholic media organization, and Interfilm, which has a long-standing connection with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the World Association for Christian Communication.

The evergreen and long-standing Interfilm coordinator Rev. Hans Hodel was in the front row of the church along with the Interreligious Jury.

They were: Rev. Brigitte Affolter, a Protestant pastor from Biel in Switzerland; Carlos Aguilera Albesa, a Roman Catholic film critic from Almeria in Spain;  Sascha Lara Bleuler, the Jewish director of the Human Rights Film Festival in Zurich; and Iranian-born Behrang Samsami, a research assistant in the German Federal Parliament, in Berlin.

During the service, an extract from the film Fuocoammare, which won the Ecumenical Prize at the Berlinale in 2016 was shown depicting the destinies of African refugees with the life of an Italian fishing family on the now famous island of Lampedusa.

The extract is a celebration of life and the Nigerian female narrator who recounts the toil and tribulation for those passing through Libya sometimes spending months or years in jail before they could move on.

Discussing the film in church

The congregation huddled in small groups to discuss the extract, and some noted the dehumanizing life that refugees and migrants who are fleeing conflict and poverty often face when they land in another country.

Interfilm says that international festivals are the hot spots of film culture where the diversity of world cinema unfolds.

It is for this reason that festivals such as this one in Nyon, Berlin, Locarno, Montreal and others are critical for the activities of Interfilm.

“Nowadays the Ecumenical Jury is a message to the churches to give the parishes a selection, for parishioners to engage in and consider more than a message to the secular media,” said Rodel who noted that now the jury is interreligious and not just ecumenical.

He said in the past that the connections between church, religion and film are either direct and obvious, or complex and hidden.

Elements of religious traditions are reflected in the stories and symbols, images and parables of films as well as in shared values, attitudes and visions that are considered by the Ecumenical Jury.

The idea for the ecumenical service was that of Claude Ruey, president of Visions du Reel, who thought it was a good idea to engage local congregations.

On Sunday evening Esther Gaillard, vice president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches, was present at an evening social event sponsored by the federation.

At the reception for the jury, Marianne Ejdersten, the WCC’s director of communication, who is also the vice president of the World Association for Christian Communication, spoke of the pride and gratitude both organizations have in their long-standing involvement with Interfilm and Signis.

“We are living in a multi-cultural world. The background, history, custom and culture are all different from one country to the other. Only by learning from each other, can the culture of each country can make its advancement.

“Film or movie is one aspect of a country's culture. It reflects the real life and the imagination of its peoples. It gives the enjoyment, the thrill or excitement to people. The art of making movies is also progressing every day.

“Prophetic communication via culture or film opens alternative horizons not limited to the perspectives imposed by the dominant culture. It empowers individuals and communities to tell their own stories and to craft their images and gestures. Communication is also a peace-building tool,” said Ejdersten.

Message to the Festival Visions du Réel celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019



Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches