The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) has narrowed down to 50 the number of films competing for the largest single film festival grand prize of its kind in America – the $101,000 Best of Festival Jubilee Award.
"After an intense period of judging, we are delighted to select our fifty finalists and semi-finalists for this year's competition," reported SAICFF founder Doug Phillips on Wednesday, two months after the competition's submission deadline passed.
According to Phillips, around 250 entries were received this year – nearly double the number of film submissions of any previous year since SAICFF began showcasing the work of Christian filmmakers in 2004.
"All told, the collective production budgets for these films are in the tens of millions of dollars," he added.
The reason for the record-setting year is likely due to the boost given to the top prize, which now outshines even secular independent film festivals.
"Thanks to the generous donation of a private foundation, the SAICFF now has prize money available to help encourage Christian filmmakers who are engaging this critical arena of the arts," announced Phillips earlier this year.
"This world class grand prize sends a message that Christians are serious about investing in those independent Christian filmmakers who are willing to work outside of Hollywood, and to produce competitive films of technical excellence, with a presuppositionally biblical message," he added.
This year's film festival in San Antonio, Texas, will be held as the independent Christian film industry has increasingly drawn mainstream praise and box office success for low-budget indy films such as the church-created film "Fireproof," which has so far raked in over $32 million in ticket sales despite having run on a $0.5 million budget and showing in less than 1,000 theaters. It is currently showing in a little less than 500 after nearly 10 weeks out.
"Purse strings of liberal filmmakers have financed anti-Christian values and moral decadence through film for decades," remarked Phillips. "They have had their day, and now is the time for a Christian reformation in filmmaking."
Among this year's SAICFF feature finalists are "Pendragon," an epic historical adventure that communicates the message of biblical honor in the context of an Arthurian legend; "The Widow's Might," a comedic drama that reveals the importance of the biblical family, care for widows, and the problem with statism; and "Throw a Few Things on the Ground," a foreign film from Togo that tells of a modern day family's struggle to escape the darkness of fetishism and the spell of "lé charlatan" to find freedom in Jesus Christ.
Also included are some full-length films, including widely-distributed independent Christian films "Fireproof" and "Expelled."
"The films that will be competing for 2009 Jubilee Awards are, overall, a notch above any past year's selections," Phillips remarked.
According to the festival founder, each of the 250 films that were submitted was evaluated in terms of its biblical worldview, holiness in presentation, production values, wise and creative use of available technological resources, and consistency with the film festival objectives and guidelines.
Film competition categories include "Feature Film," "Documentary," Dramatic Short Film," "Promotional Media," and "Commercial Advertisement." In addition to the awards for the best in each category, awards will also be given to the best trailer, the best original score, and the best biblical family, among others.
"Careful analysis was brought to bear during the decision-making process," said Phillips.
Aside from the awards, the 50 finalists and semi-finalists will be given the opportunity to sell their video for download — regardless of whether or not the films win an award.
"For years, independent Christian filmmakers have struggled to find financially viable distribution streams for their films," noted Phillips. "We are pleased to announce that an important step has been taken to meet this challenge."
This year's film festival will be held Jan. 8-10, 2009, and is open for all to attend.
"We are honored to be showcasing the best fruit of a maturing independent Christian movement at the 2009 festival," concluded Phillips. "And we look forward to our Jubilee Awards when we can further demonstrate our appreciation to those filmmakers who have, over the last year, done the best job of using their creative gifts to honor Christ through this critical medium of the arts."
On the Web:
List of finalists and semi-finalists at www.independentchristianfilms.com/program/