Berlin, February 15th, 2018, (SIGNIS). Six film specialists from five countries take part in the Ecumenical Jury, organized by SIGNIS and INTERFILM, at the 68th International Film Festival in Berlin, Germany, which starts its activities today at the Berlinale Palast in the German capital.

This group of academics, journalists, researchers and film promoters will have to choose the winning film of the Ecumenical Prize in the official section in which participate, among others, directors Christian Petzold, Wes Anderson and Gus Van Sant.

They will also have to select the films that best represent the values ​​represented by this Jury, in the Panorama and Forum sections.

The SIGNIS professionals that make up this Ecumenical Jury are the journalists Vesna Andonovic, who was Vice President of SIGNIS-Europe, Joachim Opahle and Winifred Loh, member of the Board of Directors of the Singapore International Film Festival.

From 1992, the World Catholic Association for Communication SIGNIS and the International Interchurch Film Organization INTERFILM has had an Ecumenical Jury at the Berlinale. Since 1954, OCIC/SIGNIS had a Jury, followed in 1963 by INTERFILM.

The jury awards its prizes to films of directors who have shown genuine artistic talent and succeed in expressing actions or human experiences that comply with the Gospel, or in sensitizing viewers to spiritual, human or social questions and values.

The members of the Ecumenical Jury at the 2018 Berlinale are:

  • Vesna Andonovic (Luxemburg). In 2006, she became a journalist within the cultural editorial department of the daily newspaper “Luxemburger Wort“ and is today head of this department. She writes on film as well as literature, theatre, music, arts and heritage. She has been a member of the “Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis” jury (2012) as well as member of several ecumenical juries.
  • Freek L.Bakker (The Netherlands). Since 2003 he is a researcher in Religious Studies and Assistant Professor for science of religion at the Utrecht University, specialist in Hinduism and religion and film. His most important publication is “The Challenge of the Silver Screen: An Analysis of the Cinematic Portraits of Jesus, Rama, Buddha, and Muhammad“ (Leiden und Boston: Brill 2009). Furthermore, he published about the Iranian films on Jesus and Maria. He was member of the INTERFILM-Jury 2013 in Venice
  • Inge Kirsner (Germany). She has been accompanying and organizing film series during the German Protestant Church Days since 1995, has worked as a teacher in adult education and practices as pastor the genre of Film-Services. She supervises and organizes the work with film in school and parish and writes books about it. Since 2013, she is a High School pastor in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart and works together with the University of education and the film academy. In 2015, she was a member of the Ecumenical Jury in Berlin.
  • Winifred Loh (Singapore). Since 2008, she has been facilitating Media Literacy workshops for the Catholic community in Singapore. From 2011, she represented SIGNIS Singapore as Jury member for the Spirituality/Inter-Faith Awards at Film Festivals in Hong Kong, Iran and Bangladesh. In 2014, she founded the community-led biennial Cana Film Festival and in 2017, was appointed to the Board of the Singapore International Film Festival, the largest and longest running film event in Singapore.  
  • Jeffrey H. Mahan (USA). He teaches courses on religion, media, film and popular culture and is the author or editor of books and articles on these subjects. His publications include Religion and Popular Culture in America (University of California Press 2017) and Media, Religion and Culture: An Introduction (Routledge, 2014). He is a clergy member of the United Methodist Church and a past member of ecumenical juries in Berlin, Cannes, and Montreal.
  • Joachim Opahle (Germany). He is an expert in media literacy, media & youth protection, and social networking. He has been working since 1983 in different fields of media, such as public television and public relations for dioceses. From 2004-2013, he was the Vice-president of SIGNIS Europe. He was a jury member in SIGNIS juries in Graz and Torino as well as  Ecumenical Juries in Cottbus and Berlin.