The list of Iranian films includes the recent Kandahar, Majid Majidi's lovely The Color of Paradise, Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up, the dark comedy Hamoun, the tragic Leila and the internationally acclaimed The Circle.

The festival is part of a larger thematic discussion titled "Between Jihad and McWorld," an examination of the strictures of Middle East society and the libertine impulses of Western culture. The Web site for the broader program zeroes in on what sets recent Iranian cinema apart from other world cinema, and why Flickerings is showcasing Iranian films this year: "What is really amazing about these films is the vitality of discussion about Iran's own problems, especially connected with the role and rights of women in revolutionary Islamic society," read an essay posted on the site.

Flickerings ties in the McWorld side of the equation by screening Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, about two young women searching for meaning and identity in the American suburbs.

National Film Retreat

Now in its third year, the National Film Retreat, which originated in Camden, N.J., is expanding to Marymount University in Arlington, Va. The smaller event is sponsored by the Daughters of St. Paul but is an interfaith event, with attendance at each venue capped at 30 participants.

"In a post 9/11 world, we want to focus on what the world of cinematic storytelling can offer us as we journey toward the future in trust," said retreat founder and director Dr. Frank Frost, elaborating on this year's festival theme of hope.

Retreat participants watch four feature films before discussing the works and taking time for prayer. This year's films are A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Places in the Heart, Moonstruck, Bagdad Café and a showcase of favorite film clips.

Rose Pacatte, vice president of Cine&Media, the U.S. affiliate of the International Catholic Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual and moderator of an online interfaith community on cinema and spirituality, said last year's retreat in Boston drew 31 participants from the United States and Canada, and "folks who were Baptist, Episcopalian and Catholic." For the kickoff event in 2000, the retreat "had 27 participants from all over the country, representing six faith groups," Pacatte said.

Scott Young, co-founder of the City of the Angels Film Festival (CAFF), lauded the National Film Retreat as "a robust way of discovering and discerning God's presence in the movies," and he called the retreat a worthy alternative, or supplement, to the CAFF.

City of the Angels

Founded by Fuller Theological Seminary and backed by such corporate sponsors as Showtime Networks, the L.A.-based City of the Angels festival stretches across two venues this year: Oct. 31, at the Writers Guild of America, and Nov. 1-3, at the Directors Guild of America.

The event grew out of L.A.'s racial unrest in the early 1990s, with the encouragement of Cardinal Roger Mahoney. Starting in 1994, the fest has explored how films portray dreams, reconciliation, community, apocalypse and things sacred, using diverse fare such as Robert Duvall's The Apostle, two of Krzysztof Kieslowski's films from his Decalogue series, Carl Dreyer's The Passion of Joan of Arc, Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors, Terry Gilliam's Brazil and Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove.

Set in the hometown to many major film studios, the CAFF has attracted its share of high-caliber panelists: Last year director Wes Craven, best known as a maker of horror films, participated in the appropriately themed "Touches of Evil" CAFF.

"Our festival is primarily a retrospective, committed to great conversations about great films," said CAFF producer Craig Detweiler. The Angelus Awards, a sister organization of CAFF, judges student films.