The largest single film festival grand prize of its kind was awarded over the weekend to a feature-length comedy adventure about one community's efforts to keep a widow from losing her home.
"We never saw this coming!" exclaimed John Moore, who wrote and directed "The Widow's Might."
"The production was very tough; but it brought our families together, and we're even closer now than ever," he said after his 101-minute film won the "Best of Festival" Jubilee Award at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) and the $101,000 cash prize that went with it.
In addition to landing the festivals' top honor, "The Widow's Might" was runner-up for "Best Feature" and walked away with the "Audience Choice Award," receiving more than twice the votes of the closest contender. This year marked the third time in four years that a film by Moore's HeuMoore Productions was voted as the audience favorite at the SAICFF.
"The greatest lesson we have learned at this event over the years is to press on; keep moving forward. Always pursue excellence," the 19-year-old filmmaker from Texas stated.
Since 2004, SAICFF has showcased the work of Christian filmmakers who seek to counter the worldly influence of secular films with faith-based, Bible-centered productions. Each year more than 130 films are submitted by budding Christian filmmakers for a chance at winning one of the festival's coveted Jubilee Awards, if not more. This year, a record-high 250 entries were received in 12 categories ranging from best documentary and best biblical family film to best commercial advertisement and best trailer.
"Our goal with the Jubilee Awards is to reward the work of Christian filmmakers who have artfully communicated a Christian worldview through their film production," explained Doug Phillips, founder of the SAICFF.
Among this year's entries was the recent box office hit "Fireproof," the highest-grossing independent film of 2008. The movie, which has grossed over $33 million in theater sales, walked away with the top honor in the "Best Feature Film" category and also received the runner-up nod for "Best of Festival."
"Sherwood Pictures is thrilled that 'Fireproof' has won 'Best Feature' at a film festival that not only seeks to honor the pursuit of high production values, but also morally responsible filmmaking," commented producer Stephen Kendrick, who created the moviemaking ministry Sherwood Pictures with his brother to engage a culture that Americans are largely being influenced by.
In addition to "Fireproof," Sherwood Pictures has been behind two other big-screen releases – "Flywheel" in 2003 and "Facing the Giants," which three years ago reached more than 1.5 million people in theaters nationwide.
Other big winners from last week's film festival included "The Terri Schiavo Story," which won the "Best Documentary Award;" "The Prodigal Trilogy," which won the top honor in the "Best Dramatic Short" category; "Binding Faith," which took home the "Best Biblical Family" award; and "Noah's Ark: Thinking Outside the Box," which won in the "Best Creation" category.
Aside from the awards, the 50 finalists and semi-finalists will each be given the opportunity to sell their video for download — regardless of whether or not the films won 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."
Winners of the Jubilee Awards were announced at the closing ceremonies for the Jan. 8-10 film festival in San Antonia, Texas. Over 2,400 participants representing states from Alaska to New York and foreign cities from Cairo to Shanghai were on hand for the presentation of the Jubilee Awards.
On the Web: