A discussion session during the CANA Film Festival during which participants shared their thoughts on the film, Adomya, which is about a single mother who is an AIDS survivor, and societal disapproval.

Inspiring films that leave one thinking and reflecting long after the viewing experience is over.

This just about sums up the reaction of some of the 60 people who attended the first CANA Film Festival held on June 7 and 8.

The event, held at the Catholic Centre on Waterloo St, aimed to introduce viewers to Catholic social teaching via film.

Fifteen documentaries, short and independent feature films were screened over the two afternoons, of which only two were explicitly religious.

Ms Corinne Chan, 36, said she learnt about “human dignity and compassion” from watching the documentary, Menstrual Man, about a man who aims to help poor Indian women gain access to basic feminine hygiene and livelihoods.

Another viewer, Ms Priscilla, 26, said she felt the “film taught us how average people can make changes”.

Ms Bernadette Ho, 42, said she was “touched” by the films she viewed. “All of them were thought-provoking and educational… movies that will leave you thinking and reflecting on them for a while.”

Screenings were followed by discussions facilitated by priests, Religious and lay people.

All of the nine international films – from Australia, Belgium, India, Indonesia, Iran, Lithuania, and Turkey – were Singapore premieres.  

Two local filmmakers, whose works were screened, also joined viewers at question-and-answer sessions to share experiences.

They were Amit Virmani, director of Menstrual Man, and Michael Kam, who directed Masala Mama, a short film about finding allies and heroes in the most unlikely people.

The film festival’s creative director Sanjoy Ghosh also shared insights during panel discussions about the filmmaking process and the power of cinema in uniting people amidst diverse cultures and social taboos.  

Commenting on his viewing experience, Mr Gordon Pinto, 54, said he was moved by the power of people’s dreams and hopes. 

Ms Schutz Lee, 46, who brought her two daughters to participate in the Kids Showcase, said, “It is very cool to attend a Catholic film fest featuring non-Catholic films because it shows that we can learn from other communities. Catholic social teachings are really just universal values.”

The film festival team says that because of the positive feedback they have received, they are looking forward to improving the festival next year.