Skip to content

SONscreen 2008: Report on the Adventist Film Festival

The Sonscreen film festival turned six this year, with the three-day festival opening on Thursday, April 10 and closing with an awards ceremony on Saturday, April 12. From around the country, students traveled to Sonscreen’s host location: the Adventist Media Productions Studio in Simi Valley, California. A number of Adventist Universities such as Southern Adventist University (SAU), Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU), and Pacific Union College (PUC) were represented at the event. And a couple of festival attendees were said to have even traveled from as far away as Norway.

Highlights from the 2008 Sonscreen festival included, “A Bright Past”- a short film by Mickey Seiler and Ben Van Allen, which earned the best comedy award. “A Bright Past” told the story of a psychic struggling to find a market for his special power: reading peoples pasts rather than their futures, which does have it’s upsides, though he’s only “telling people what they already know.” “Diary of a Japanese Solider,” a film by Maranatha Hay, took home the best documentary award. The film told the story of Paul Tatsaquchi, a graduate of Loma Linda University who while working as a medical missionary in Tokyo was drafted into the Japanese army during World War II.

The Best in Fest prize went to Philip Sherwood- a SAU student, for a film called “The Yearbook”. “The Yearbook” was an adaptation of a stage play by the same name,written by Bob Stormberg and Michael Cooper. It was an inspirational comedy in which Ricky, a popular high school student, learns to accept his socially awkward friend Jimmy.

Other notable student films this year included “The Deep End” and “Ashlee’s Story.” “The Deep End,” a film by PUC students J.R. Rogers, Blake Penland, and Allison Kurtz, was a documentary that explored the harsh realities and rewards of working as both a full-time student and a film-maker.

“Ashlee’s Story,” one of the three documentary films entered in the competition by Maranatha Hay, was the story of a little girl who copes with right-side Hemiplegia- a condition which causes one vertical half of her body to be significantly weaker than the other half. The film focused on the day-to-day challenges that Ashlee and her loving family face and the support they receive from the Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Alongside student films, the festival hosted films made by professionals. One of these entries- “Jesus People (Ep. 5),” was by far one of the edgiest films at Sonscreen.

Dan Ewald and Rajeev Sigamoney , the creators of “Jesus People,” designed the concept as a pilot for a television show. Inspired by the 1984 mocumentary- “This is Spinal Tap,” “Jesus People” is a satire on Christian pop music. The film documents a fictitious Christian pop band who call themselves, “Cross My Heart.” Though it approaches audiences with a kind of irreverence that resembles that of Mad TV or Saturday Night Live, Ewald and Sigamony introduce ideas and values that believers might actually find attractive without being too preachy. At a question and answer session following the screening Sigamony pointed out that in the course of an outrageous parody of Christians who fixate on end-time events, one of the characters in the film learns about grace and self-respect.

“Sonscreen is an ongoing conversation. It is a tool that is blessed to be in a position to honor God and nurture man…Our position is unique because our purpose is to mentor and teach,” said Stacia Dulan Wright, the founder of Sonscreen. Though Sonscreen was originally created as a means to discover and recruit students with the talent and skill to fill positions in television production for the Adventist Communication Network, the festival now places a major emphasis on encouraging and mentoring students in all facets of film-making. Throughout the festival, students participated in workshops and panel discussions with industry professionals. Sonscreen organizers also partnered with Act One. Act One is a non-profit organization that educates Christians for careers in film and television. Students were encouraged to apply for Act One’s extensive programs in writing and executive training.

Wright hopes the festival will “continue to grow in Christian mentorship while providing a way to connect with Christians from all walks of life.” One of the biggest challenges the festival faces is sponsorship. “There’s always going to be a funding challenge. CRC (the Church Resources Consortium) can only afford to do so much. Our challenge is to connect with other sponsors,” said Wright. Wright hopes the festival can expand it’s connections and gain more international sponsors in the future.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Spectrum Newsletter: The latest Adventist news at your fingertips.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.