Photo: Guillermo Arriaga
A wave of spirituality washed over the Venice Film Festival on Saturday with the out-of-competition screening of “Words with Gods,” a series of religious-themed short films directed by Mexico’s Guillermo Arriaga and eight other filmmakers, including Spain’s Alex de la Iglesia and Argentine-born Brazilian Hector Babenco.
“It doesn’t deal with religions so much as human beings,” Arriaga, who also produced the project, said here of his short, “La Sangre de Dios” (Blood of God).
“The goal of the film is to spark a dialogue so we can understand ourselves better and become better human beings,” he added.
“Words with Gods” consists of nine short films that take the movie-goer from the Australian desert to Iranian Kurdistan and from boisterous Mumbai to tsunami-battered Japan.
Mira Nair, Emir Kusturica and Amos Gitai are among the other directors whose short films were included in “Words with Gods,” the first of four installments in the Heartbeat of the World anthology film series.
“La Sangre de Dios” tackles the theme of atheism and “the death of God” through a story focused on the devastating impact of human beings on nature.
“It’s an ambiguous work that leaves open all the interpretations about what God is, if (God) exists or not,” Arriaga, former screenwriter for Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and the director of “The Burning Plain,” said.
The short that received the most applause at the Venice Film Festival, which kicked off on Wednesday and runs through Sept. 6, was De la Iglesia’s, the only one of the nine to use humor to address its theme - Catholicism and the forgiveness of sins.
De la Iglesia said that at first he wondered whether the theme might be too transcendent for a “comedian” like him to tackle and that he might offend people, even though he considers himself a Catholic.
“Then I thought that humor is a technique of expression that helps us approach reality more freely, and that was very important in talking about religion,” he said.
“For me, the forgiveness of sins is the most important part of the Catholic religion, which is defined precisely by its preference for the repentant sinner over someone who always does good. That fills me with hope,” De la Iglesia added.
Babenco’s film, meanwhile, invites the viewer to follow a homeless man who is distraught over the death of his son and attends an Afro-Brazilian religious ritual in which evil spirits are exorcised through dance.