Films about defending the defenseless scored big this year at the largest Christian film festival in the world.
The Eighth San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) came to a grand conclusion tonight as the closing ceremony streamed live from the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in downtown San Antonio, Texas. The ceremony featured live folk music performances from balladeer Charlie Zahm and the band “The Third-Class Boys.”
As the quality of the films at the SAICFF have continued to grow and improve, so has the presentation quality of the SAICFF ceremonies, which families from around the world were invited to watch for free in live stream from the festival’s web site.
Doug Phillips, the President of the SAICFF, reminded the audience that the Christian faith is a Word-based faith built upon the Word of God, and yet highlighted how Jesus Christ used storytelling through parables to communicated valuable truths. For this reason, Phillips said that Christian filmmaking was “crucial.”
Georgia filmmaker Stephen Kendrick, producer of Courageous (2011) and Fireproof (2008), announced the Best Feature Film Award. That award went to the movie Return to the Hiding Place, which was an audience favorite among those attending the festival and who saw the screenings of the films. The film dramatically presented the story of Corrie ten Boom's army of untrained teenagers in World War II who navigate a deadly labyrinth of challenges to rescue the Jewish people in their panicked exodus from death.
“I thank my Master Jesus Christ,” said filmmaker Peter Spencer as he received the Jubilee statue. He went on to call Christianity “a revolution against the kingdom of darkness.”
Winner of the Young Filmmakers Award was an animated film about Joseph and his brothers called Joseph in Egypt III. Although the CG animated film was not highly textured and color enhanced, it did demonstrate impressive animation ability in the characters, particularly in their genuine human-like movements. In receiving the award, they thanked their father “without whom none of this would not have been possible.”
The Best Promotional Media Award went to the film The Lamplighter Guild, a documentary produced with the help of veteran indie Christian filmmaker John-Clay Burnett. The Lost Medallion won the award for Best Original Score. Filmmaker Phillip Moses accepted this award.
Samaritan Ministries sponsored the Audience Choice Award again this year. Attendees at the festival voted to grant that award to Return to the Hiding Place. The film dramatically presented the story of Corrie ten Boom's army of untrained teenagers in World War II who navigate a deadly labyrinth of challenges to rescue the Jewish people in their panicked exodus from death.
The Vision of The Drop Box
The Sanctity of Life Award was a new award featured at the film festival, although every film festival since 2004 has received several entries dealing with the evils of abortion. R.C. Sproul, Jr. announced this award, which went to the film The Drop Box, a documentary about a Korean Pastor named Lee Jong-rak who in 2009 built a wooden hatch on the side of his house called “the drop box” for receiving unwanted babies.
The filmmaker thanked his parents for teaching him on the sanctity of life and his girlfriend for her support. “I became a Christian while making this movie,” said Brian Ivie as he gave a passionate testimony about how the people he interviewed in the film compelled him to change his perspective about God and His design for human life.
The Best of Festival Jubilee goes to the film that, as Doug Phillips said, “embodies the heart and soul” of what is represented “in its totality” at the festival. This $101,000 grand prize also went to The Drop Box. The young filmmaker Brian Ivie was called “a visionary” by several of the festival judges for seeing a great example of compassion and choosing to work to uplift it as a positive example to the world.
The runner up was the film Return to the Hiding Place.
Special Appearance by Senator Rick Santorum
A special highlight of the evening came during the presentation of the Best Short Film Award. EchoLight Studios sponsored this special award with the potential to make a film with a $250,000 budget. “Those who are faithful in the little,” said a spokesman for EchoLight, will be committed with much. (See Luke 19:17.) Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) announced this special award. “You guys are the guys who are shaping the culture,” said Santorum. He called the event possibly “the genesis” of the transformation of America.
Useless, a film that began as a submission to the 168 Project, a speed filmmaking competition, won the Best Short FIlm Award sponsored by EchoLight.
Senator Santorum’s appearance at the festival came as a surprise to many. Santorum has been a strong and out-spoken advocate of Biblical marriage, and his wife homeschools their eight children. While many supporters of sponsoring organization Vision Forum appreciated these aspects of the former presidential candidate, many Vision Forum fans have also been very troubled with several of the other policies (and voting record) of Senator Santorum on things like supporting the increase of the national debt limit, violating several of his campaign promises, and violating Biblical and constitutional limitations upon civil government. Vision Forum did not communicate that Santorum’s presence at the festival was in any way an endorsement of the politician, his voting record, or his platform.
In fact, during the last Republican primaries, Vision Forum Ministries released evaluations of the candidates which consisted of critiques of each candidate including Senator Santorum, who received low ratings on more than a few issues from the ministry for things believed to be in conflict with the U.S. Constitution and the Bible.
The film festival has also invited many other celebrities to participate in the ceremonies without endorsing all that they represent and believe.
All in all, the theme that may have come out most clearly in the films honored at this year’s film festival was that Christians must show compassion to help and defend the oppressed and mistreated by the unlawful—whether they be Jews, the unborn, or our fellow Christians. They must do this because this is what God does for His people. May the participants of the festival live that theme as well as they proclaim it.