For the Love of God, a short documentary film made in Paphos on a very low budget, has been slected to be screened at the prestigious International Festival of Red Cross and Health Films in Bulgaria in October.
Organised by the Bulgarian Red Cross, under the auspices of the Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the World Health Organisation and Unesco, the festival gets an ‘A’ rating, the same as the festivals in Cannes, Venice, San Sebastian, and others. It highlights issues such as humanity, health and solidarity. For the Love of God deals with issues of human rights, freedom of religion, love, faith and persecution.
Directed and produced by Paphos-based filmmaker and journalist Bejay Browne, the documentary is currently being shown at festivals around the world.
Browne’s 20-minute film highlights the plight of Egyptian Coptic Christian converts Maher and his daughter Dina Elgohary, who fled to Cyprus from Egypt in November 2016, in fear of their lives. Coptic Christians have been persecuted throughout history and are often the target of intolerance and sectarian violence. Copts in Egypt make up around 10 per cent of the population – the largest religious minority.
Conversions from Islam to Christianity are not officially recognised in Egypt. Apostates live in daily fear of their lives, some flee to other countries.
“After meeting Maher and Dina, I felt strongly that their story needed to be told using the medium of film and I had to do it in a way which involved a minimal outlay,” Browne said.
The filmmaker said she is looking forward to participating in the Red Cross film festival and accompanying forum, which will be held in Varna, near the Black Sea, at the impressive Sok Kamchia complex.
“I am very grateful to have been invited to attend the event by the festival director Ilko Raev. The idea of the festival is not only screening films, but also a forum, where people meet to discuss various humanitarian issues.”
Raev said that these include the characteristics of Red Cross and Red Crescent activities and topical issues like aggression and how to handle the problem, and most importantly – how to depict these humanitarian issues with the help of the cinema.
“The festival will help create a greater awareness of the cultural characteristics of people in different parts of Europe, and their traditions of coexistence, mutual aid and volunteering. It will help to educate society for tolerance and understanding,” he said.
Browne said that the film is a significant project for her as she strongly believes it is a basic human right to live in peace without facing daily abuse and fear. She added that the differences between people are what makes us unique and interesting, and only by knowing others and opening our minds can we find the strength to overcome fear and hatred.
“The social interaction between us all, whatever our religion, culture or race needs to be carried out with respect for others, and very importantly for ourselves,” she said.
For the Love of God premiered at the 12th Cyprus International film festival in June, where Browne received an honorary mention. The film was also part of the official selection for the 11th River Film Festival in Italy. It will also be shown as part of the Associazione Contéiner in Veneto, Italy in August. In September, the film will have its UK premier at Vue cinema in Islington, London as part of the 11th I Will Tell international film festival and in the USA at Salute your Shorts film festival in Los Angeles, also in August.
The Paphos crew is a small team consisting of cameraman Giorgos Christanas, who also co-edits with Browne, and Hannah Sampson, as the boom operator and production assistant. The trio have already started shooting their next documentary film which will depict ageing in an inspirational form.
Browne spent much of her childhood in Paphos and moved to Cyprus in 2006, where she worked at local TV stations-as a producer, director and presenter. In 2008 she joined the Cyprus Mail.