By AT News Team, April 6, 2015:   Six young cinema creators won the top “Sonny” Awards Saturday night at the Son Screen film festival organized by the Adventist denomination in North America. The Way, a retelling of the Bible story of the Apostle Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, won both Best in Festival and Best Dramatic Short for producer Erik Edstrom from Walla Walla University in Washington state.

The Audience Choice Award and the Best Documentary Short went to I Will Not Fear about Ed Rusk who started participating in Ironman races to improve his health. When he fell ill during a race, he felt that God gave him the encouragement to finish and it became an opportunity to learn a lesson about faith. The production team from Southern Adventist University included Mark Comberiate, Nick Lindsay and Dillan Forsey.

The Jury Selection was won by The Pilot, a documentary short about the experiences of a pilot named Bryan flying in white out conditions. He shares the importance of letting go of one’s own sense of conditions and trusting the plane’s instruments even when the world is spinning around. This film was produced by Mark Soderblom from Pacific Union College and shot with an iPhone.

The award for the Best Animated Short went to A Day With Granny created by Jason Dull at Southern Adventist University. In a story told with cartoon graphics, Penelope just wants a normal grandma, but discovers that her break-dancing, tagging, wrestler grandma is, much to her surprise, a perfect fit for her.

The best film created by a secondary student was Just Milk produced by Summer Medina from Redlands (California) Adventist Academy. The story is based on the real-life experience of a teacher: During a food drive for a local charity, some freshmen girls have second thoughts about approaching strangers. Just when things could not get any worse, they encounter a gruff, mean-looking biker.

The “Sonny” for best screenplay was awarded to Kristi Ayon from Saddleback College for Lord, Hear My Prayer about survivors of abuse. The key figure in the story is Lily, a 14-year-old who lives with an abusive, alcoholic father and uses immoral methods to earn the money to get away. Because of what she did, she is shunned by her friends and school mates. With no hope for the future, God intervenes. Saddleback College is a public community college in Mission Viejo, California.

Lord, Hear My Prayer also won the award for Best Sound Design. The “Sonny” for Best Cinematography went to Dillan Forsey for his work on I Will Not Fear.

There were a total of 47 films submitted for the 2015 Son Screen Festival of which 41 were accepted for consideration in the awards and showing during the event. A total of 20 of the films were dramas, nine were documentaries, five were animated shorts and another five were professional films. Two productions were submitted in the high school section. A total of ten schools hand films entered in the event.

There were presentations by cinema producer Christoph Silber as well as Jason Satterlund who produced the controversial drama series The Record Keeper which was withdrawn by the General Conference after it spent nearly a million dollars on it. The reasons for the withdrawal, which Satterlund did not discuss at the event, have been described as “weak” and “make no sense.”

Rik Swartzwelder and Nathan Nzario, director and producer of Old Fashioned, the recent, successful independent drama, also made a presentation. Additional speakers included Wolfgang Schick and Adrian Dure from the European Media Center for the Adventist denomination.

This year’s film festival was held on the campus of La Sierra University in Riverside, California. Facilities at the Zapara School of Business and Troesch Conference Center were used for an event that began Thursday morning (April 2) and concluded on Saturday night (April 4).

The purpose of the annual Son Screen Film Festival is to encourage Adventist young adults to learn to use cinema to share the gospel. The Adventist movement began when a steam press was new technology and continues to grow in an era when visual and electronic media have supplanted the printed page.