‘Visions of a better world’, the 2020 International Conference of Religion and Film in Amsterdam

UPDATE: the 2020 International Conference of Religion and Film has been postponed, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are still planning to host the conference sometime during the 2020-2021 academic year. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to email us.


The Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and The Journal of Religion and Film co-organize the 2020 International Conference on Religion & Film from 10 – 12 June in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

The Faculty of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam is a multireligious community of scholars and students devoted to the critical study of religion. In research and education, societal challenges are high on the agenda. Aligning with the international Sustainability Development Goals-agenda, the faculty aims to contribute to an inclusive, sustainable and resilient society that enables people to live meaningful lives and develop meaningful relationships. While religion is not always addressed as a big impact factor, especially not in those regions in the world in which a narrative of secularization dominates, the faculty believes that religion plays an important role in many societal issues today. Together with NGOs, government bodies, the business sector, religious organizations and other parties, the faculty examines the positive and negative impact of religion on these issues.

Film and lived religion
The 2020 International Conference on Religion & Film will feature several keynotes and panels on the topic of film and the politics of lived religion under the title ‘Visions of a better world’.
Religion and film share a great similarity. Both are involved in world-building and meaning-making practices; both offer sources for inspiration; both create symbolic and mythical worlds and it-could-be-otherwise realities, both utopian and dystopian. As such, film can function as religion, a perspective that has inspired many scholars to analyze film from a hermeneutical perspective, looking for the religious dimensions of film. Mostly, such a perspective entails an analysis of the symbolic layers of film; the narrative elements; the mythical elements; and the theological themes.

Focusing on lived experience we are interested in what film brings about: on the level of the individual, but also on the societal and cultural level. What kind of experiences does film produce? And what is the impact of these experiences? Does watching a movie, instead of being a temporary escape from reality, have an impact other than entertainment? Does film have the power to change people? Can movies shape our hopes, fears, desires, and our involvement in the world? And ultimately: does film have the potential to contribute to a better, or at least a different world, or the ability to change how we see and approach the world around us? 

Keynote speakers are John Lyden, Professor of Liberal Arts at Grand View University, Iowa (USA) and Sheila Nayar, Professor of English, Communication and Media Studies at Greensboro College, North Carolina (USA). 

Call for papers
Scholars who explore the field of film and religion from a lived religion perspective are encouraged to send in a proposal for a paper. Also, the diverse discussion of films from around the world is encouraged at this conference.

Proposals should include a title, a 350-word description of the paper and also indicate whether visual media will be used during the presentation. Also, information on the author and the author's home institution should be included.

Your proposal can be sent to: visionsofabetterworld.frt@vu.nl
The (extended) deadline for submission is the 1st of May 2020.

Registration to attend the conference can be made online through Eventbrite. The registration fee is €199. Students enrolled full-time in a university can register for a reduced rate (€99). The registration fee includes buffet lunches and refreshments. The opening reception and dinner can be booked at an additional charge of €20.
Note: Neither VU nor the Journal of Religion and Film have travel funds for participants.

Organizing committee
Prof. Dr. Ruard Ganzevoort, Dr. Johan Roeland, Miranda van Holland, Vera Brouwer, Marieke van der Linden, and Thomas Tubbs.

Conference venue and hotel suggestions
The conference takes place at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s campus in Amsterdam’s Zuidas district. In choosing your hotel, you may want to consider its proximity to VU Amsterdam (De Boelelaan 1105, 1081 HV Amsterdam) and/or public transport (see Route description to VU Amsterdam). Please be aware that hotels in Amsterdam book up quite quickly.

Should you have any questions, please contact us by sending an e-mail.