Jesus! Goa Priest Turns Filmmaker

Panaji, Aug 4 (IANS): A Goa-based priest recently donned the director's hat along with his sacramental robes and shot a documentary that was screened at the New York Film Festival. His inspiration? Jesus Christ's talent for storytelling.

Father Agnelo Gomes's documentary, "From Victim to Victor", was on the inspirational battle of a New Zealand-born Anglican priest Father Michael Lapsley, 63, against apartheid and violence in South Africa.

He said Christ's "storytelling skills" spurred him towards filmmaking. Christ used parables and striking metaphors to take the word of god to the masses.

"Christ was a great storyteller. Storytelling is still relevant. Today we have different media for storytelling and film is probably the most powerful one," Gomes, who's posted at a Church-run educational institute in Verna, 20 km from here, told IANS.

The documentary came at the end of Gomes' two-year stint in the New York Film Academy's documentary film making programme and is based on the true story of Lapsley, an activist priest, who was also a target of an allegedly state-sponsored assassination attempt which left him severely impaired.

The film was screened at the New York Academy Film Festival last month.

"Father Lapsley had returned home from a busy day and was opening up his mail during his days in exile in Zimbabwe. There was a manila envelope mailed from South Africa and when he opened it, a bomb exploded and blew off his hands, took out an eye, deafened both ears, and took off part of one ear.

"It left him severely burnt, about 95 percent," said Gomes, claiming that the fact that Lapsley continued to battle against violence and apartheid in South Africa despite tremendous physical handicap, was inspiration in itself.

"Despite 30 surgeries, partially restored hearing, an artificial eye and using prosthetic arms, Father Lapsley continues to battle on. That is inspirational," he said.

"He is working to fight the culture of violence and revenge in South Africa and around the world and bring about healing through his Institute of Healing of Memories," Gomes said.

Making the documentary took him nine months, he said.

According to Gomes, oil paintings were his first calling, or so he thought until a chance meeting and a conversation with a filmmaker in New York forced him to think otherwise.

"Initially, I wanted to learn fine arts, basically oil painting and sculptures from the classical and renaissance periods. I happened to run into a filmmaker (in New York) and after a brief conversation with him, I realised the possibilities for my future ministry with films were immense, especially documentary film-making. So I decided to give up my full scholarship and enrol in the film programme," he said.

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