The Attic Film Festival

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Film Review
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Every spring in Austin, TX, following on the heels of The SXSW Film Festival is The Attic Film Festival (TAFF) (http://www.atticfilmfest.org/). Like SXSW, TAFF showcases some the best films from around the world. Unlike SXSW, TAFF focuses on faith-based Christian films, and also includes a Ministry Fair that highlights various ministries with opportunities for festivalgoers to support in helping make a global impact. Now in its fifth year, film festival director Dr. Jamee Kennedy spoke in an interview about TAFF’s humble beginnings in the youth room at Grace Covenant Church – which was the attic of one of the buildings on campus. That first year’s Best Film recipient was Binding Faith. “Binding Faith had such a powerful impact on those that attended the fest, it was apparent that we had something that was glorifying to God. The brain cells started turning over and we decided we’d try again but this time as a real fest, with real submissions open to all filmmakers. We decided that the space we used to house the fest was really great and so the name stuck.”
This year’s festival was host to more than 400 attendees, including an unusual high percentage of attending filmmakers available for Q & A’s and “meet & greets.” The opening evening Winner’s Circle Showcase included an encore performance of Binding Faith and filmmaker Dondra Vaughn was on hand to field questions about her experience in making the film. “Binding Faith was made in my final year of film school and was shot entirely in India.” The film is about a pastor who is passionate about sharing his faith, but when extremists threaten to riot, the only way he can continue to preach is if he first signs his own death warrant. (http://dondravaughn.com/Films.html)
The film slate for TAFF 2012 was equally impressive with more than 30 films showing in two locations at the new venue: For The City Center. Two of this year’s biggest winners were Promised Land and Journey to Jamaa. Promised Land was awarded the 2012 Best Film, 2012 Best Documentary and the 2012 Audience Favorite recipient. The film was directed by Todd Morehead and produced by Todd Morehead and Bryan Jennings of the Walking on Water organization, which is dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with this generation’s global surfing community. Promised Land is a unique look at Israel through the lives of two friends from different faiths, brought together by their love of the oceans that separate them, and their common love of surfing. (http://promisedlandthemovie.com)
Journey to Jamaa was awarded the 2012 Best Short, 2012 Best Technical Achievement and 2012 Best Director awards. This film was produced by World Vision and directed by Michael Landon, Jr. Journey to Jamaa (written by Brian Bird) is inspired by the real lives of Margaret and Derick, two orphaned children from Uganda who make the journey from Kampala to Kasangombe in a heartbreaking bid to overcome poverty and experience hope. They journey for miles on foot, pulling along a mysterious, large, wooden box on wheels, in search of a new home and a new family. (http://journeythefilm.com)
Milltown Pride is a wonderful period piece set in the middle of Prohibition-times America. It’s a baseball movie following a young man named Will Wright and his dreams of the big leagues. But in 1920’s South Carolina, the only path to pro baseball is through the local textile mill team. Against the wishes of his wealthy father, Will leaves his family and privileged life behind to work in the harsh conditions at Newton Mill. His natural talent on the field makes him the rising star of the mill-league team—and also earns him a dangerous rival. How much will he risk for his chance at the big leagues? And when you hit rock bottom, is there any way up? Milltown Pride features top-notch acting from Thomas Sneed as Will Wright and Becca Kaser as Ginnie Douglas (as well as others), and the production by Darren Lawson is extraordinary – you will not find a film with a better look and feel for 1920’s South Carolina. He said they shot on film and in numerous locations with historically correct sets and props. They did not hold back on the budget and it shows. Visit http://www.milltownpride.com for more info and how to get your own copy. A well-crafted film with the only drawback being the typical Christian film need to have a “preaching moment,” where one of the characters explains the message of the film (usually obvious, as is the case with Milltown Pride), to ensure the Christian message is evident. This is a complaint heard from many secular and mainstream viewers (those the filmmakers are trying to reach), and Christian filmmakers need more confidence in letting their stories tell the message and not a page of dialogue.

One great example of how this can be accomplished is in the short film from TAFF called Change for a Dollar, which has only one line of dialogue in its entire 10 minutes – but the message of the film is clear. This is one of the best films from TAFF, and it is currently available to view in its entirety on-line (http://www.shesalwayswright.com/#!cfad-video). Evident to its quality and popularity, it is nearing 2 million views. Director/writer Sharon Wright’s film packs a wallop in its short 10 minute journey of a day in the life of a homeless man and the ways he spends his dollars worth of change. The film even gained the attention of Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert who says, “It touched me. Sharon Wright. Remember that name.” Take 10 minutes to watch this film. You won’t be disappointed.

The 2012 TAFF award for Best Feature went to writer/director Chad Ahrendt’s Reconciliation. Ahrendt said much of the film came from his own life experience, but is a fictionalized account of Grant Taylor, who has been troubled by intense childhood memories ever since his wife Sara became pregnant. As fatherhood nears, Grant privately wrestles with his lifetime embarrassment and anger toward his own father after he had discovered his father was gay. His memories come to a head when he receives a phone call that his father is on his deathbed. Grant reluctantly goes to see the man he disowned. At the hospice father and son confront the past. This thought provoking film of heartache and triumph inspires you to love more deeply, seek forgiveness from those you have hurt, and forgive those who have hurt you. There is solid acting from Eric Nenninger as Grant and Jack Maxwell as the father, and the directing is first-rate. This is a topic that needs to be explored, and the preaching moment near the end is the film’s only downfall. Reconciliation is a strong film and highly recommended. (http://www.reconciliationmovie.com/)
Another great example of visual storytelling is the hilarious TAFF Family Award film Rogue Saints. This festival favorite is one the best Christian films ever produced, and had the audience rolling with laughter the majority of the time, while gaining some insightful moments for the remainder. The film is not yet available on DVD (set to be released the fall of 2012), and a full review of the film will come at that time. Director Adam Lubanski does a stellar job in this film about a couple of inept would-be thieves who spend day and night digging for a one-of-a-kind diamond buried under a church – while church business continues-as-usual above them unaware of the shaky foundation beneath. A must-see film when you get the chance.
TAFF’s director Dr. Jamee Kennedy sees a positive future for Christian filmmaking. “Christian film today is where Christian music was about 15 years ago. It is emerging; it is beginning to have a strong following. Unfortunately, many of the films out today are not up to par in terms of quality. The acting in most Christian films is sub industry standard. But the good news is that this is changing, growing, and getting better. TAFF is working to push the Christian filmmaking industry (because it is after all a business as well as a ministry) to be better than anything out there. There is no reason that good stories, well told, with great messages cannot come from the Christian filmmaking industry. I firmly believe that God will use the gifts, talents, and abilities of His people to do just that soon. And when He does, we will see a run-away hit that storms theaters and changes the world.”
Could this run-away hit be Rogue Saints? Reconciliation? Milltown Pride? Only the future will tell. One opportunity to see several of these films is the Gideon Media Arts Conference and Film Festival in August 2012 (http://gideonfilmfestival.com). And remember next spring to visit Austin, TX’s other film festival – The Attic Film Festival (http://www.atticfilmfest.org/).

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Comments
  1. This is awesome Dale!! I’m currently working with a Christian Film – “Elvis The Apostle” now. I will pass this on to the producers!

  2. Reblogged this on "MidWood" In The Making, Presented by ThNita Productions and commented:
    This is great info especially since we are currently working on a Christian-based film.

  3. […] angle, the film is equally impressive. I first saw “Rogue Saints” on the big screen at The Attic Film Fest, and I was looking forward to seeing it again – which says a lot about how I feel about the film. […]

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