Thursday, March 22, 2012

The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival

This post is overdue, but I hope you enjoy it. :)

I recently was blessed to be a volunteer at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.  I wasn't sure at first that it would work out, but some dear, kind friends and family helped me to be able to get a ride there--God was gracious!  The first day (Thursday) I went with friends who were volunteers that day, and we arrived early.

I came across my brother-in-law, Michael, and he introduced me to Mr. Pat Roy, writer and editor of the Jonathan Park radio adventure series. Mr. Roy was very down-to-earth and friendly, and I enjoyed talking with him.  I also was introduced to George Sarris, a compelling and animated Bible performer. Michael was kind enough to take me backstage, then offer to take me to lunch with him and Pat Roy.  I couldn't refuse such an offer, despite the egg salad sandwich and snacks in my lunch bag.  (I decided to save them for supper.)  On the way there, we met up with Mr. Colin Gunn, producer/writer of several documentaries, most recently IndoctriNation.  It was exciting to meet him and one of his daughters.  He was going to lunch, too, so we joined him.  I enjoyed hearing some of the things they have learned and what they've been up to, though I didn't hear as much as I would have liked, since the restaurant was a bit noisy with chattering people. Yet I count it a special time.

After that, I headed off to my first film.  I will list all the films I saw below, so stay tuned if you're interested in learning more about them and my thoughts on them.

Some friends and me at supper-time
Other people I met up with were: several families from our church (enjoyed a couple of outdoor meals and chats with them), Laura and Lacie Verret and their mom (always a pleasure!), Hannah Mendenhall, the makers of The Forgotten Martyr: Lady Jane Grey (they were sweet, down-to-earth people with an obvious love for the Lord), random strangers, my (previously only-online) friend Jenny Leding and her mother (both so sweet!), and dear friends who moved from the area to TN.  It was just a blessing all around. :)
The Verrets with me - Photo credit: My sister Annie

And part of that was my volunteering.  The first night I had a slot to work for an hour, and my early jitters wore off quickly, since the people were friendly and the night was informal.  One lady encouraged me, too, by saying I was doing a good job. (Thank you, whoever you were!)  Sadly, I didn't know all the answers to people's questions, but overall it wasn't too hard.  I left at the end of that film and headed to the Charlie Zahm and Tad Marks concert on the Riverwalk nearby, thankfully getting help and an escort from a friend.  At the concert I was to meet up with my sisters and nieces and nephews, but I also met up with Jenny Leding there, who was just leaving with friends.  It was surreal to see her there, but neat!  I didn't get to hear much of the concert, but it was good, and I also enjoyed talking with friends there.

Photo credit: My sister Annie
The next day our brother came to pick us up before the evening event.  We did arrive early in the morning, though, and saw some good films and met up with friends, again.  We also heard a lecture from Kevin Swanson, quite thought-provoking (read more below).

On Saturday, my brother drove my sister and me in at nearly 8:00 AM, since I had volunteer work then. I was stationed at the large theater this time, where they were showing Two Hats, then IndoctriNation. Annie and I met up (she had gone to somethings else during IndoctriNation, since we had already seen that) and saw some films together.

Jenny Leding and me - Photo credit: My sister Annie
Before the Closing Ceremonies, we wanted to eat somewhere and were looking for someone to help point us to the food court, or go eat with us.  We ran across Jenny Leding and her mom and asked them about that. They were going to eat elsewhere, but they kindly walked with us and helped us get to the food court.  I had them sign my autograph book (a film festival tradition), and we snapped a couple of photos before they headed off.  At the food court, we were pleasantly surprised to see two of our friends from church, Jill and Clara. They were eating frozen yogurt, and they invited us to sit with them, which we did with pleasure.

The Closing Ceremonies were quite exciting, though I was busy with the doors, thus a little distracted. 

Order of Events:
1:00 pm - Unplanned (1:02) Mature
I had read the book of the same name by Abby Johnson, so I wanted to see this.  It was, again, touching and incredible.  Amazing to think that, by God's grace, simple acts of kindness and love can affect someone so much, even someone as deeply entrenched in her way of life in leading an abortion clinic!  We have to be concerned for others whether we agree with them or not. This story will stay in my mind and heart for a long time to come, and makes me want to work somehow against abortion.

2:45 pm - Weighing the Evidence: Examining the Fruit of Charles Finney vs. Jonathan Edwards (:52)
Narrated by articulate boys, this film presents the vast differences between Finney and Edwards.  Dr. Joe Morecraft is one of the men they interviewed. They give good descriptions of the two famous preacher's beliefs and how that translated into their work.  If you think counting Christians based on who said the sinner's prayer or walked the aisle is correct, or if you want to find out more about the differences between the men's two doctrines, you would do well to check out this film.

3:37 pm - Sforzando (1:05)
This film presents the staff and ways of learning at the Sforzando music camp. The staff seems committed to bringing glory to God and teaching children, et. all, to use their talents for Him with the best of their ability.  The music is conservative and Classical, getting into some of the reasons for this, as opposed to rock or music related to that.  I would not perhaps go as far against all the types of music the teacher denounced, but this was a minor, though interesting, point of the film.  I also appreciated the segment on music history and theory, and the humility and gentleness of the conductor.  The film seemed to drag a bit near the end, and I think there could have been a better wrap-up of the purpose and joy of music, not just a showcase of their music, which was not all wonderful to listen to. (Some was quite enjoyable.)

George Sarris

6:30 pm - Opening Ceremonies
We heard a rousing speech from Mr. Phillips, an excellent performance by George Sarris, and some special music! (Charlie Zahm led us in the U.S. national anthem.)

Charlie Zahm performing - Photo credit: My sister Annie

8:30 pm - Crying Wolf: Exposing the Wolf Reintroduction to Yellowstone National Park
First place winner in the Creation category. I was volunteering at this film, otherwise I probably wouldn't have chosen to watch this. But it was very well-done and got its point across clearly.  Is man to be in dominion over the animals and to protect his own property, or not?  This film posits from the Scriptures that man is God's highest creation and we should not support the survival or needs of animals over that of humans.  It also concludes that the government has been less than fair in introducing wolves into the U.S.

Live at the Arneson River Theatre: Charlie Zahm and Tad Marks (8:30-10:00 pm, but I went over at about 9:35) - Toe-tapping music from two great ballad/folk musicians.

8:30 am - A Voice for Life (1:02) Mature
This is the amazing story of a woman named Melissa who survived an abortion.  She suffered no physical damage, but it was a blow when she found out her birth mother aborted her.  Though the film is told by Catholics, there is much here to learn and enjoy, in a similar vein as Unplanned, yet unique.

9:32 am - The Karen: Forgotten but not Forsaken (:23) Mature
Kirk Cameron narrates this heart-wrenching documentary of the Karen people.  Their faith and love in difficult circumstances is inspiring. Runner up in the Great Commission category.

10:30 - Young Filmmakers:
Like Treasure (:15)
This short film is a humorous retelling of the hidden treasure parable.  It is made in the tradition of the silent films of yesteryear, and is well done in that regard.  I laughed throughout, yet I think they got the serious message across pretty clearly.

Pain of Death (:11)
This story is set in the future, in a country (presumably America) in which Christians are hunted down and put to death.  A non-Christian father who is on the killing side of the business decides to do what he can to get his Christian daughter to safety before she is killed. I would give this a mature rating, though the violence is not gratuitous.  The acting and such are not the best (not unusual for a newbie film-maker), but it took some creativity to make and does get you to think.

The Forgotten Martyr: Lady Jane Grey (:15)
This--rightly, in my opinion--won the top Young Filmmaker's Award.  The cinematography, acting, and story were all well done, with an artistic quality and historicity.  Beyond that, it made me think of my own life, whether I am being a bold enough witness of Christ, and have the deep love of Christ that Lady Jane Grey showed.

Jonah (:14)
This is an animated film--pretty good for someone just starting out--of the Biblical story of Jonah. The story leaves off just after the Ninivites repent.

Joseph in Egypt II (:15)
This retelling of part of Joseph's story will likely bring a smile or laugh to your lips.  The characters are round-headed, cartoon-like characters, and they often speak in a more modern way.  I'm not sure if this approach is the best, but it does entertain as well as teach.

I Don't Believe in Guns (:08)
A humorous portrayal of the illustration by Gary DeMar, which shows that the Bible is an effective tool if we take it out and use it.  Runner up in the Young Filmmaker's category.

The Ultimate Weapon (:08)
A slightly more serious portrayal of the same Gary DeMar illustration about wielding the Bible boldly and well.  Friends of ours made this, and we enjoyed it!

The makers of The Ultimate Weapon and I Don't Believe in Guns talking about their movies. - Photo credit: My sister Annie

1:00 - Short Films (I missed some of these, but saw all listed):
The Dancer (:11)
A documentary giving a glimpse into the life of an orphan boy in India.

History of Nikola Tesla and Saint Patrick (:06)
These were two informative films, done in fun stick-figure style.

Check This Out (:15)
Informative, fast-paced segments make up this film, with questions about race, fossils, and more.  They are cute and easier to understand than the lectures. Put out by Answers in Genesis. Runner up in the Creation category.

The Save (:07)
To be candid, I didn't quite understand what this one was all about, except the obvious of baseball.  Maybe something about mentoring, too.  There is little to no talking in the film.  Perhaps I missed something, which isn't unlikely, since I know next to nothing about baseball and I was at the very back of the theater with a lot of heads in front of me.

The Jester (:11)
First place winner in Short Films.  A silent but color film, about a discouraged jester recently fired from his job for not producing enough laughs.  He walks about and stumbles on two stoic children leaning against a tree near a wagon.  He tries everything he can think of to get them to laugh, but the true way he does so comes as a surprise.  I wasn't sure what to make of this film at first, but there are a few Biblical principals artistically played out in it, and it did keep my attention all the way through.  The turnaround ending may come a bit suddenly, but in a short film it worked pretty well.  Not a light film as it may first appear, though it is not unnecessarily dark, either.

Johnny Texas (:15)
This silent film was a fun one, encouraging chivalry as a young man goes to find his sisters, who were kidnapped.

Brothers (:09)
This is the story of two adult brothers, one the "good kid," one the prodigal son.  At their father's funeral, there is tension between them. The acting is quite good, but the ending seems a bit sudden, perhaps.

Don't Lose Heart (:13)
In this film, we see a father out of touch with his daughter, who eagerly seeks his time.  The father eventually realizes that the relationship with his daughter is more important than his personal pursuits--but is it too late?

Love You (:04)
In a similar story-line to the previous film, we see a brother squelching his younger brother's desire to spend time with him.  Will the realization of wrong-doing come too late?

The Button (:15)
This was an animated lego film, with a few special effects to take it up a notch.  The story-line was intriguing, and I think I got the gist of the message, about selfishness and perhaps Prov. 14:12--There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

4:00 pm - Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Your Family: A Biblical View of Fantasy, by Kevin Swanson
This talk was a helpful analysis of fantasy and how we should desire the pure and holy, not the wicked, even in a fantasy environment.  Where do the creatures get their power?  What's in a name or label, and does it matter?  Those and more were covered in this talk.

8:30 am - Two Hats (1:26)
First place winner in the Great Commission category.  It was beautifully filmed and provided a lot of interesting tidbits of life in Papua New Guinea and the missionary family's setting up of the first Christian radio station there.  The family's cheerful and loving attitude is inspiring.  They also have a good multi-generational mindset, hoping to instill a love of missions in their children's lives.

10:30 am - IndoctriNation (2:12) Mature
First place winner in Documentaries, and much-deserved (also Runner up in the Best of Festival category).  Some of the subject matter is mature and a bit frightening, but it is very important for adults to see.  I watched it twice so far, and each time I was riveted.  The film keeps a good pace and has special touches of graphics and timelines.

1:00 pm - Church Planting in Utah and Idaho (:59) (Missed the first 5-10 minutes)
This is an informative and inspiring documentary of the LDS community and missionaries presenting the gospel to them.

2:00 pm - Only One Life: The Phyllis Rine Story (:11)
This is the story of a woman who proclaimed Christ in the everyday things, in talking to children, etc., at home and abroad.

2:12 pm - Uganda Man (1:05)
This is a colorful and captivating film about a Christian Ugandan, his story, and the story of his people.

3:45 pm - Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture (1:09) (Missed the last 5-10 minutes) Runner up in the Documentary category.  This is a thought-provoking film about the pitfalls of media. 

7:30  pm - Closing Ceremonies:
Performance by Becky Morecraft
Performance by George Sarris
Jubilee Awards
Performance by Charlie Zahm

The award winners humbly and joyfully thanked the Lord, and amid bursts of applause and cheers, Stephen Kendrick (winner of the Best of Festival Award for Courageous) pointed up in dedication to God.  His speech put it nicely: that in the Academy Awards it would be awkward if anyone thanked the Lord, but here it would be awkward if they didn't.  This was an exciting climax to an encouraging and enjoyable event.  And the fun didn't stop there!  Charlie Zahm sang and Tad Marks played afterward, along with young, adorable Virginia Phillips.  We missed hearing Mr. Phillips play the harmonica, but I heard tell that it was a great highlight, as well.  Will you be joining the group in 2013?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Do you celebrate Christmas?
  0 (0%)
  1 (14%)
No, because of the pagan origins/elements.
  3 (42%)
No, because of the Regulative Principle.
  0 (0%)
No, because of both reasons stated above.
  1 (14%)
Yes, because it's fun and harmless.
  0 (0%)
Yes, because we believe it's about Christ's birth.
  2 (28%)
Yes, because of the previous two reasons.
  0 (0%)


I'm so late in posting this and a new poll!  Thanks for voting.  It's a big, sort of tough issue to sort through, but I believe the pagan origins & elements are quite strong.  Some are disputed, yes, but to be safe, I don't want to celebrate the day.  I DO rejoice over Christ's birth in the form of lowly human-kind, yet the day of His death we are asked to remember.

I have a new poll up, something a little lighter.