March 9th, 2011
07:51 AM ET

Blair launches new faith films contest for youth

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN Wire Editor

Last year, Tony Blair ran a film contest for young people, inviting them to make films about faith.

His Faith Foundation was overwhelmed by the response: hundreds of entries, from Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, Sikhs and humanists, on five continents around the world.

Buoyed by the success of the first "Faith Shorts" film contest, Blair is now doing it again.

He was impressed not only by the quality of the films, he said, but what they said about the people who made them.

"I think the fascinating thing about young people and the films that they sent us about faith... is that for them their faith isn't just about a personal relationship with God, it's also motivating them to do things, to get active, to have a purpose in life," he told CNN.

"The quality of the films was exceptional last year and I think we'll get even more entries this year," he said.

It's all part of his vision of religion as a force for good in the world.

"There is a huge motivating force out there called religious faith that does motivate people to do wonderful things, as opposed to what we often read about it doing, which is to produce conflict and violence," he said.

Blair set up his faith foundation after leaving office as British prime minister in 2007.

It promotes understanding between religions, with a strong focus on young people.

The "Faith Shorts" contest appealed to Esteban Pedraza, one of last year's winners. A film student at New York University, he made a movie about his mother and his best friend, and how their faith changed their lives.

"Faith is huge for me," he said. "It kinda fuels everything I do, fuels my decisions in life, helps me with hope every day, kinda gives me purpose, so that's why I decided to make a film about faith."

This year, the foundation is accepting films from 14-to-18-year olds, who can choose from among three categories: family, action, or musical movie.

Judges in 2011 include "Slumdog Millionaire" star Anil Kapoor, Wolverine actor Hugh Jackman, and Blair himself. Muslim megapreacher Amr Khaled and Rabbi David Rosen are also among the panellists.

The foundation will accept not only movies made with professional equipment, but even ones shot with cell phones, judging each film based on the equipment available to the filmmaker.

And young people who have an idea but no equipment at all can apply to the foundation to win a portable video camera to make their film.

The deadline is July 1, and the winners will be flown to London to accept their prizes and work with a professional film crew.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Belief • Faith • Movies • Teens • United Kingdom

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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.