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Australian movie priest earns PhD in Cinema Studies

Director of the Australian Catholic Film Office Fr Richard Leonard has become the first priest in Australia to earn a PhD in cinema studies, and one of only a handful of similarly qualified clergy in the world.

Dr Leonard, a Jesuit, said that people were regularly surprised that as a priest he was sent to study film.

"But it all depends on how seriously we take the role of the media in today's society," he said. "In recent years Pope John Paul has repeatedly challenged the Church to take it very seriously, and to do all we can to influence it for good. Understanding it, and speaking its language, is a critical place to start in that process."

The Australian Jesuits commissioned Fr Leonard to undertake doctoral studies with Professor Barbara Creed at the University of Melbourne.

His dissertation was entitled The Cinematic Mystical Gaze: the Films of Peter Weir.

"When I started out I knew I wanted to write on Peter Weir, but as I read all the literature about him and his work, what struck me was how often critics and academics would speak about his films as 'mystical'," he said.

Dr Leonard's Ph.D. dissertation was given the highest possible accolade by the overseas readers Melbourne University asked to examine the work.

The Australian Catholic Film Office is an agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

The Mystical Gaze and Peter Weir (Abstract)
Richard J. Leonard (University of Melbourne)
Fr Richard Leonard's Current Film Reviews
Peter Weir
Peter Weir Cave

9 Feb 2004