The Without Borders Film Festival in Umbria kicks off its fourth season on Friday with the world premiere of an animated film written and narrated by Yoko Ono.

Hailed as the “only film festival with a soul” by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Jerry Levitan, the non-profit event seeks to transcend political, economic, and religious differences by showcasing selections that “embrace our common humanity,” according to event founder Fiamma Arditi.

Running July 1-3 in the Umbrian city of Spoleto, the theme for this year’s festival is “Home,” examining “our vital but fragile need” for an idea “as essential to humans as breathing” in 13 films from around the world.

“As humans we are incredibly adaptable in the process of creating our home,” adds Arditi, “but nobody can force home upon us.
In a shrinking world the question of home becomes ever more complex”. Films reflect a chosen topic as opposed to competing against one another.

Last year’s theme was “Water”, and “Iran” in 2009.

Selections range from features, documentaries and shorts to experimental and animated films. My Hometown, directed by Jerry Levitan and Terry Tomkins and written by Yoko Ono, is an animated short that features children from across the world describing their ideas of home, hope, and love, accompanied by Yoko Ono’s Remember Love, the B-side to the 1969 Plastic Ono Band single Give Peace a Chance.

The Oscar-nominated documentary Wasteland, directed by Lucy Walker, Karen Harley and Joao Jardim, features renowned Brazilian artist Vik Muniz, who takes viewers on a journey from Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, to the heights of international art stardom.

In the fiction category, Mira Nair’s So Far From India tells the story of a man from India who decides to seek better opportunities in America, but then makes excuses when it is time for his family to join him, examining the illusions, fears, hopes and isolation of immigration. The festival is honoring Iranian filmmaker Shirin Neshat as its special guest, who will present the short animated film Poeticide, by Payam Mofidi.

Margarethe von Trotta, Shoja Azari, Shahram Karimi, Jerry Rothwell and Julia Bacha are some of the notable directors and artists who will also be in attendance.

Founded in 2008, Without Borders was inspired by the 2005 documentary Knowledge Is The Beginning, about the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, created by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, consisting of students from Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

While their countries are at war, the musicians perform Beethoven in Berlin, Seville and Ramallah, encouraging them to imagine a collaborative and peaceful Middle East.

“Either we kill each other or share what there is to share,” concludes Barenboim.

After three years in Rome, the festival will move to Spoleto for the 2011 edition to be part of the prestigious Festival dei Due Mondi, which features art, theater, music, and now film as well.