by AT New Team

You may still hold the notion that Seventh-day Adventists boycott cinema altogether. In fact, not only have they become regular consumers of movies, there is a yearly film festival sponsored by the Church featuring the creative work of Christian producers. High-tech has brought movie production within reach of tens of thousands of young adults around the world.
 
The winners of the 2012 Son Screen international festival are:
BEST IN FEST:   "Comatose," Derek Taylor, Director
AUDIENCE CHOICE AWARD:   "Danger Planet," Justin Burks, Director
JONATHAN DULAN HIGH SCHOOL AWARD:   "The Burden," Hannah Stange, Director
BEST DRAMATIC SHORT:   "Forsaken," Ramuel Galarza, Director
BEST ANIMATION:   "Danger Planet," Justin Burks, Director
BEST DOCUMENTARY:   "The Golden Glove," Ricky Oliveras, Director
 
Ten years ago, the Adventist Church in North America set out to do something that might have seemed startlingly out of the box. A film festival was founded and christened Son Screen. There have been, and still are, critics. Some think Son Screen should foster only Adventist films. Some think it should sponsor only Christian films. Some think movies are intrinsically sinful and Adventists should have nothing to do with any of them.
 
But Son Screen founders had a vision. According to Paul Kim, executive director of the festival, it “was established by a creative group of professionals in the Adventist Church as a way to nurture faith-based filmmakers in their craft, career development, and spiritual life.” Sponsored by the denomination, it “is a showcase for developing filmmakers. … Since 2002, the festival has had the distinct pleasure of discovering and highlighting some of the finest up and coming filmmakers.”
 
Kim says he considers those who work in this and other creative media to be “on the fringes, creating relationships with people who might otherwise not even know we exist” as a denomination. The festival has screened a lot of films that surprise people. It is not about “Christian” films per se, but the work of Christians who are filmmakers. It is open to all Christian filmmakers trying to produce things they consider important.
 
“We don’t want to define what ‘Christian art’ or ‘Christian film’ is. We try to let all opinions, thoughts, and reactions … become a part of our festival. That’s what the power of story is; it opens all these great conversations,” Kim told Adventist Today. He believes that sometimes, defining something as specifically “Christian” can even put it at a disadvantage, raising certain kinds of expectations or making some people turn away immediately.
 
Although the Son Screen festival has faced some controversy, it has been steadfastly sponsored by North American Division leadership. “What other denominational entity has sponsored a film festival? We are incredibly grateful for the affirmation and the fact that the NAD takes this seriously,” Kim said.
 
When fears that the festival would cease to be have surfaced, it was not so much a problem of “they are too controversial, we’re not going to do that anymore” as it was simple economics. Funding is being cut everywhere, and sometimes it has looked as though Son Screen might be a victim, but so far that has not happened.
 
The festival celebrated its tenth anniversary by turning its annual short film screening and contest into something broader. With the theme, “Celebrating the Creative Spirit,” this year’s event was more like a conference and a film festival put together. The film screenings, of course, are central. Industry workshops, taught by experienced and well-regarded film professionals, were also included and a first-ever chance at winning a film development grant. There was a special screening of My Last Day Without You from Germany, a preview of The Record Keeper, based on The Great Controversy; the annual panel of industry experts, and, of course, the awards ceremony. The keynote address was by best-selling novelist and screenwriter, Susan Isaacs.
 
For the first time this year there was “Pitch-fest.” After attending a workshop on creating the perfect “pitch” (a brief presentation designed to catch the interest of prospective producers of one’s film), student attendees were able to give their pitches. The best were chosen for public presentation to a special jury, which chose Daniel Wahlen’s idea to receive the Son Screen Film Development Grant of $1,000. A second award, a special jury prize of $250, was given to Vienna Cornish because, according to Kim, “the jury wanted to” recognize “her experimental film pitch.” Kim says he sees the Pitch-fest as a first step towards creating a market at Son Screen for new and innovative projects besides completed films that can be screened and acquired for use.
 
According to Kim, many people said it was “the best year ever,” but the organizers always shoot for that. They hope each year is better than the year before. This time they focused not so much on the films themselves, but on the conference as a whole—on the experience, and even more importantly, on the conversation.