When an assignment for a religion 211 class took a creative turn, it started a new Pacific Lutheran University tradition — “Hebrew Idol.” Antonios Finitsis, a professor of religion, founded and organized the film festival in 2007. It became an annual tradition, and this year’s finale is less than a week away.

Students taking “Religion and Literature of the Hebrew Bible” have to research a story from the Hebrew Bible and come up with their own modern day interpretation. The assignment requires students to form small groups and produce a short film that encompasses the message of the story.

“Hebrew Idol” consists of an online voting portion and a live finale. During the online portion — which closed Wednesday — PLU students voted for their favorite video submission. The three videos that received the most votes will advance to the live grand finale held in the Karen Hille Phillips Center for the Performing Arts Studio Theatre April 17 at 6 p.m.

“Some of the videos turned in were phenomenal,” Finitsis said of his decision to create the contest. “I thought to myself ‘I can’t let these videos die in my classroom.'”

The goal of the event is to teach the relevancy of the Hebrew Bible without trying to convert or preach to the audience.

Finitsis said when a person watches the videos, he or she would most likely not even realize there is a religious message embedded within the movies. The panel of judges will ask questions about how each video relates to the Hebrew Bible before selecting the winner.

“The purpose is to show that PLU has talent,” Finitsis said. “It is a culmination of learning and an opportunity to celebrate these remarkable students success and talent.”

Prior to “Hebrew Idol” there will be a red carpet event where students and faculty will be encouraged to meet and interview the stars of each movie.

Finitsis routinely travels to other college campuses around the country and speaks to the administration in an attempt to expand his award winning film festival. So far, no other colleges have jumped on board due to a lack of resources or motivated professors.

“This project only works because we have instructional technologies at PLU,” Finitsis said. “We have cameras, computers and people with knowledge of video production on campus.”

The event will be open to the public and all admission is free.

“To me it’s all about the creative process,” Finitsis said. “I believe that hard work and creativity ought to be recognized and rewarded.”

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