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Venezuelan priest-theologian leading Ecumenical Jury at Cannes


El Ucabista

Macky Arenas - published on 05/20/23

Fr. Néstor Briceño joins 5 other experts on the Christian panel that will award a prize at the end of the festival.

It’s not unheard of for Catholic clergy and religious to be involved in activities linked to the world of show business. Their activity ranges from productions that are specifically focused on faith, such as Bishop Fulton Sheen’s incredibly popular 1950s TV series Life Is Worth Living and Bishop Robert Barron’s various documentaries and other media productions, to priests who have competed on various national versions of the televised competition Master Chef, just to give a few examples.

It’s true that the show business environment can be hostile to the faith. However, these priests and bishops are convinced that their presence can do a great deal of good.

The Ecumenical Jury

Priests’ presence in the media can also be behind the scenes as consultants for films, and now, on a panel at the Cannes Film Festival. In this case, a Venezuelan priest, Fr. Néstor Briceño —  a professor at the Jesuit Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas — has been selected as president of the Ecumenical Jury. The other jury members hail from Cuba, France, Czech Republic, and England.

This six-member panel is elected annually by Signis and Interfilm (Catholic and Protestant organizations, respectively). It has been invited every year since 1974 to award a prize to a film in the Cannes Festival. 

The Cannes Film Festival

Father Briceño considers it “an honor and a responsibility” to participate in a festival of such quality and prestige, representing all of Latin America.

“As for our responsibility as Christians,” he explains, “the jury pays special attention to films that deal with significant themes.” It favors those thatrepresent values such as respect for human dignity and human rights, solidarity with all kinds of minorities or oppressed people, justice, peace and reconciliation, preservation of creation and the environment, and support for processes of liberation. The award is presented during an official ceremony at the end of the festival.

“The appointment of Néstor Briceño as a member of the ecumenical jury of Cannes is a recognition of his experience and trajectory in the field of cinema and religion. His participation in the event will allow an enriching exchange of ideas and visions on the film industry,” writes El Ucabista, a publication affiliated with the university where Fr. Briceño teaches. 

This fits perfectly with the dynamic of the “Church going forth” that Pope Francis has been calling for.Bearing witness in these secularized environments is a duty of those who have a solid formation and clear ideas.

St. Teresa used to say that God was also among the pots and pans, so why not among cameras and spotlights?

Why Fr. Briceño?

The priest and university professor founded a film festival that began in 2011 in Ciudad Guayana, known as the Festival of Spirituality in Venezuelan Cinema (Fescive). It has become an important cultural event in Venezuela that has contributed to the dissemination of national cinema and to intercultural and interreligious dialogue.

During the festival, national films are screened that address themes such as faith, justice, solidarity, human dignity, and other universal values. It also includes round tables and debates with the participation of film critics, filmmakers, and specialists in spirituality.

In addition to the national films and awards, it has special sections such as “Cinema and Spirituality,” which presents international films with themes related to spirituality and religion. There is also a “Cinema and Human Rights” section that screens films associated with social justice, freedom, and human dignity.

This demonstration of his dedication and ability is why this Venezuelan priest is a member of the Ecumenical Jury for this 76th edition of the famous Cannes Film Festival.

The Cannes Film Festival

The 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, one of the most important film events of the year, kicked off on May 16.  It’s one of the most prestigious events in the world film industry. There, a selection of films from all over the world fight for the coveted Palme d’Or, one of the most important awards in the world of cinema. In addition to granting the main award, the festival is also a showcase for international cinema, presenting films from around the world in various categories.

The festival was officially born on May 31, 1939, when the City of Cannes and the French government signed its “birth certificate.” The film The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939) was the favorite among the first selection of the festival, but due to World War II the festival was canceled. The first festival was finally inaugurated on September 20, 1946.

The number of prizes awarded by juries made up of professionals, artists, and intellectuals has increased over the years. Since the 1950s, Cannes has become the biggest event in world cinema.

This year, it includes May 27.

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