Letters to Father Jacob wins CWB’s Bridging the Borders Award at Palm Springs International Film Festival

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Palm Springs – January 17, 2010: Today, the Palm Springs International Film Festival named Letters to Father Jacob as the winner of Cinema Without Borders’ Bridging The Borders Award at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The award luncheon for the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival was held at Spencer’s Restaurant in Palm Springs, California. Finland’s Los Angeles Consul General Kirsti Westphalen and the New York’s Consul General Ambassador Ritva Jolkkonen accepted the award on behalf of Klaus Haro, director of Letters To Father Jacob, from Bijan Tehrani, Editor in Chief of Cinema Without Borders.

“First of all, let’s thank the Palm Springs International Film Festival for taking us around the world in 13 days by showing us films from over sixty countries. This is an amazing feast of world cinema which has made Palm Springs a home-away-from-home for international filmmakers. At Cinema without Borders, we are proud to be part of this celebration by giving our Bridging the Borders Award to a film that helps bring the people of our world closer together. The winner of 2010 Bridging the Borders Award is a brilliant film that deals with bridging invisible borders that keep people apart from each other and drag them into loneliness. We proudly present the Bridging the Borders Award to Klaus Haro’s, Letters to Father Jacob.” said Bijan.

Darryl Macdonald, director of the Palm Springs International Film Festival believes that: “With richly drawn characters and a story addressing the timeless, universal themes of redemption and self-forgiveness, Klaus Haaro’s Letters from Father Jacob is a quiet miracle of a movie. It’s an eminently fitting selection for the Bridging the Borders Award, and one of the most affecting films of this year’s Festival.”

In his Award acceptance note, read by Kirsti Westphalen, Klaus Haro wrote: “For me movies have always been about sharing, about connecting to other people. Growing up in Finland, I was the only child of my family. I had plenty of time to listen to the stories that grown ups would tell. But when they noticed that I was listening to these stories – often about people less fortunate – they changed the subject before I heard the ending! So with my imagination, I had to make up the rest of the story. These stories and my imagination were my close companions, growing up.

When I was around ten, I was taken to see a film that I really didn’t want to see. I was told it was a story about an Austrian Family, a singing family. Now how great was that for a boy of ten, who really wanted to see Superman? The movie, as you might have guessed, was The Sound of Music. I was not keen to see this, but finding my seat in the dark, I was hooked from the first images; this was not like the films I had been exposed to earlier, not like Tom & Jerry or Superman… This was something else: A story told in pictures, about people with integrity, a story light and seductive at the beginning, but ending as a story about a family united, fleeing for their lives. I cried I laughed – I was hooked: If stories can be told in such a way, entertaining and touching at the same time, I want to see more.

What had started from an American musical found its way to the classics of Chaplin, Ford, Wilder, Stevens, Zinnerman… Movies became a way for me to connect to people, different from myself. Whether the film was about someone in an other country, age, time or galaxy… I connected through what I saw. Sitting in the dark theatre I was not alone. I felt, I shared the destiny of people all over the world. And seeing all these movies while growing up, well… there was really no other profession I ever wanted to work in, than that of a filmmaker.

Making films became, to me, a way of giving back something of the riches I have gotten from the treasure of films – especially American film. I am both honored and humbled to receive this prize, since in my mind and heart I still feel like a beginner, one who is taking his first steps towards the kind of storytelling, the kind of sharing, that I myself have enjoyed through cinemas.”

Letters to Father Jacob
Letters to Father Jacob is the story of Leila, a life-sentence prisoner who has just been pardoned. When she is released from prison, she is offered a job at a secluded rectory and she moves there against her will. Leila is used to taking care only of herself, so trouble is to be expected when she starts working as the personal assistant for Jacob, the blind priest living in the rectory. Every day, the mail man brings letters from people asking for help from Father Jacob. Answering the letters is Jacob’s life mission, while Leila thinks it’s pointless.

Leila has already decided to leave the rectory when the letters suddenly stop coming. Jacob’s life is shaken to its foundation. Two completely different lives are intertwined unexpectedly, and the roles of the helper and her subject are turned upside down.

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Sara Tehrani

Sara Tehrani, is a film publicist and a fan of international cinema

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