More than 1,800 participants from around the world were on hand in the Alamo City for the presentation of the Jubilee Awards during closing ceremonies at the 8th Annual San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF), held at the Lila Cockrell Theatre in downtown San Antonio last Saturday night. An additional 5,000-plus registered users tuned in via the Web to watch the free live broadcast of the event.
The “Best of Festival” Jubilee Award—with its $101,000 cash prize—went to “The Dropbox,” a 72-minute documentary directed by 22-year-old Brian Ivie that chronicles the loving sacrifice of a Korean Pastor named Lee Jong-rak who built a wooden hatch on the side of his house in 2009 to collect disabled, unwanted babies. Ivie heard about Pastor Jong-rak’s efforts through a Los Angeles Times article and was determined to document the pastor’s story in the hopes of bringing him support.
The six judges for the SAICFF were so moved by Ivie’s vision—originally outlined in a Kickstarter Campaign and then brought to fruition through his film—that they each came to the podium when the award was given to explain why this documentary was chosen for “Best of Festival.”
“We [as the judges] talked about how Nehemiah heard about the walls being broken down and was so broken by it that he said, ‘I must go and do something about that.’ …Many times, we are moved with compassion and do nothing. [Brian] saw an article and said, ‘I am going to run to the battle.’”
Judge Curtis Bowers, who won ‘Best of Festival’ in 2010 for his film “Agenda,” remarked:
“We saw in this young man someone who loved life so much; that loved the truth; that was willing to defend those that no one cares about and wants to get rid of. If he’s that passionate about that in a movie that he didn’t know if it’s ever going to make money or not… we could tell: That’s a young man we want to invest in, because he’s going to change the world with his films.”
Ivie, who came to Christ while producing “The Dropbox,” shared these pointed words upon receiving the SAICFF’s grand prize:
“…I deified movies for 21 years of my life, and I made them my god, and it failed me. I’m done with that story. I’m done with that idol. And I promise in the fear of God that I will steward this investment, because I would rather tell the plainest truth with $100,000 than the most sophisticated technological lie with ten million dollars or one hundred million dollars.”
The film was also honored with “Best Sanctity of Life” Award earlier during the ceremony, prompting these remarks from the film’s director,
“[I saw] all these kids come through this dropbox with deformities and disabilities, and eventually—like a heaven flash—I realized that I was one of those kids, too; that I have a crooked soul, and God is a father who loves me still.”
Ives further commented:
“This world is so much about self-reliance and self-esteem, self-worth, and these kids… can’t be self-reliant, because they have these disabilities. The total illusion is that we can be self-reliant, because we rely on God for every breath that we take. And the day that we stop realizing that we are disabled is the day that we stop fighting for Christ as the only one who enables.”
The top honor in the “Best Feature Film” category went to “Return to the Hiding Place.” The film, directed by Peter Spencer and produced by his daughter Petra Pearce, is set in Holland during World War II and follows Corrie ten Boom’s army of untrained teenagers as they navigate a deadly labyrinth of challenges to rescue the Jewish people. “Return to the Hiding Place” also garnered the Audience Choice Award and was runner-up for “Best of Festival.”
Upon receiving these honors, Spencer explained that the persecution of Christians in our own time compelled him and his family to make this film about persecution during the Second World War:
“175,000 of our precious brothers and sisters will give their lives for Jesus Christ this year. We want[ed] to do this in remembrance of the martyrs of the faith.”
“The Pink Room,” a gripping expose of the sex slavery of young girls in Cambodia, garnered the “Best Documentary” Award. Producer Shawn Small, who received the honor, put the project into context:
“‘The Pink Room’ started in 2008, and it was never just a story. It was about exposing the problem, the atrocities that are happening in Cambodia to little children. It was about bringing solutions. It was about raising awareness and support for those who are doing it. On behalf of heroic women like Mien and those still trapped [through] sex trafficking, and organizations like Agape International Missions, we humbly accept this.”
The “Best Short Film” Award was given to “Useless,” an 11-minute film based on Philemon 1:10–11. Written and directed by Brandon Adams, the film short previously won “Best Film” at the 168 Project.
In winning “Best Short Film” at the SAICFF, the film’s director automatically received a $250,000 opportunity to produce a feature film with Echolight Studios who sponsored this Jubilee Award category. Bobby Downs, President of Echolight, explained their vision in partnering with the SAICFF for this commendation.
“Storytellers have shaped our society in the way that we think for all of recorded history… Stories are used for teaching, for entertainment, for passing on old knowledge and wisdom,” noted Downs.
“Tonight, Echolight is going to do something about encouraging storytellers. We believe that supporting this generation of Christians making movies will have a significant impact on lives in the years to come, so we are planting a seed here tonight by awarding the winner of the Jubilee Award for Short Film with $250,000 as an opportunity to make a movie with Echolight Studios and get worldwide distribution.
The message is this: Those who are faithful in the little things will be better equipped to pursue bigger projects.”
Downs then passed the baton to special guest U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, who presented the award on Echolight’s behalf:
“It is my honor to be here with Echolight. I’m excited about them and what they’re doing, trying to nurture and build, to create a real powerful portal for this industry.”
Santorum also commended the SAICFF and the filmmakers in attendance for their important labors in the culture wars:
“You are the ones who shape the culture, and Washington, D.C. is simply a reflection of that. So I just wanted to come here to encourage you and to thank you. …This country needs you. …[I] think that really great things are going to come in the darkest times and be lit… from this festival.”
Kevin Sizemore, one of the two lead actors in “Useless,” received the award on behalf of Brandon Adams, who directed the film, but who was unable to attend due to the recent birth of his son who was born five weeks early. Sizemore read a statement Adams texted him when he learned he had won this award.
“Thank you for this tremendous honor and opportunity,” wrote Adams. “I have spent the last ten years seeking to learn how to create art that glorifies God, which has included cultivating my craft; but, more importantly, growing in the grace and knowledge of my Redeemer. My hope is to express the work that Christ has done in us and in history through the medium of film, with the prayer that Christ will be exalted over all things. And this award and prize has granted the opportunity to do so.”
The “Best Promotional Media” Award went to “The Lamplighter Guild,” a 5-minute film that explains the vision of this one-week art school founded by Mark Hamby in which students learn the elements of radio theater production, including voice acting, sound design, script writing, music composition, and more from experts in the industry. Producer Phillip Telfer offered these thoughts on receiving the award.
“John-Clay [Burnett] and I are both very grateful for what Doug Phillips and Vision Forum have done to invest in filmmakers,” Telfer said. “When I was invited to attend the [Christian] Filmmakers Academy back in 2007, I had no provision at all for filmmaking. Last year, John-Clay and I, along with Colin Gunn, had a feature documentary film, ‘Captivated.’ That opened the door for [us] to take some of the things we have been learning here and share it at Mark Hamby’s Lamplighter Guild. So we talked about it and also took that time to make this promotional.”
“The Founding Fathers App” took home the top honor in the “Best Commercial Advertisement” category. The 60-second spot promotes the Founding Fathers Project, a series of interactive iPad books allowing viewers to interact with and learn about each of the founding fathers. The goal is to teach American children who these great men were and what they did. The film was written, directed, and produced by Preston Cone, Daniel Walsh, and Jeremiah Warren.
Nathaniel and Jonathan Johnson received the “Young Filmmakers” Award for “Joseph in Egypt III,” a 15-minute film that is the final chapter in their Joseph in Egypt Trilogy, which is told through Lego Stop Motion Animation.
The “Best Original Score” Award was given to “The Lost Medallion,” a feature film starring Alex Kendrick in which his character, Daniel Anderson, visits a foster home to drop off some donations and is quickly roped into telling the kids a story which transitions into a heart-racing adventure of Billy Stone and Allie. These two teenage friends uncover a long-lost medallion and then accidentally wish themselves back in time as part of an exciting adventure. “The Lost Medallion” was also the runner-up for “Best Feature Film.”
Other winners included “Ru: Water is Life,” which garnered the runner-up award in the “Best Documentary” category; and “Static,” which took second place for “Best Short Film.” Runner-up for “Best Sanctity of Life” went to “BIRTH CONTROL: How Did We Get Here?”; and “Indescribable” was tapped for second place in the “Best Original Score” category. “Mobile Mayhem” took the runner-up award for “Young Filmmaker” Award. The “Best Treatment” Award went to “Fire and Forgiveness,” with “Sola Fide” getting the second-place nod in this category.