Actor Judge Reinhold will take part. So will director Tom (Ace Ventura) Shadyac, producer Ralph (Star Trek judge reinholdIV) Winter, film critic Michael Medved and musician David Wilcox. They'll judge the nominees at this year's Damah Film Festival, a burgeoning, touring showcase for films of "spiritual redemption, struggle, inspiration or surprise," according to the fest's Web site.

By the time Damah rolls around in October, Christians will have had plenty of other opportunities to present their own work or to discuss feature films with strong spiritual components, gathering for fellowship and discussion about a medium that -- until not too long ago -- was dismissed by many believers as the devil's playground.

"Film is the new way of having conversation about whatever your particular spiritual journey might be," said Damah spokesman Spencer Burke. "[It's] the new cultural language. We're trying to start a conversation."

Upcoming film festivals exploring spiritual and moral themes include the Flickerings fest, part of the Cornerstone gathering in Illinois; the 3rd Annual National Film Retreat, reaching the East Coast (Arlington, Va.) and the West Coast (Orange, Calif.); the City of the Angels festival in Los Angeles; and the Heartland fest in Indianapolis.


Damah

Named for a Hebrew word meaning "a metaphor that transforms," Damah festival organizers hope to discover and encourage filmmakers with unique stories to tell. Submissions must run no longer than 30 minutes and capture a spiritual experience, "preferably with unexpected endings," according to the Damah site (http://damah.com). The stories, not film aesthetics, determine which films receive top honors.

So far, the results have been encouraging. Last year's fest in Seattle pulled in nearly 250 submissions and more than 800 attendees, but the story doesn't end there. Event organizers took many of the submissions on the road, stopping in St. Louis to showcase four hours' worth of last year's films.

Integral to the festival's success is its refusal to cater to any one particular spiritual perspective, Burke said. "When we came on the scene, people said 'We've been waiting for this kind of festival.' . . . It's different from other festivals in the sense that we're really trying to pull toward the power of story with spiritual experiences."

The festival returns to Seattle Oct. 10-12 before moving on to other host cities. Festival winners will share a prize pot totaling $15,000.

"We have documents on our Web site for people to find out how to bring the festival to their community," Burke said. "We'd love to see it happen in a wide variety of cities across the nation or even internationally."

The first stop on the tour: Oct. 15 in Minneapolis.

Flickerings

Jesus People USA's annual Cornerstone festival continues to broaden its film focus. The Flickering Film Showcase, July 2-6, will present more than 20 short films, supplementing the showcase with seminars, workshops and nightly screenings focusing on Iranian cinema (last year's featured films, Krzysztof Kieslowski's Decalogue series, played to packed houses).

Flickerings' film showcase isn't juried, nor are films restricted by what they communicate, the expertise of the filmmakers or by the format in which they're filmed. Entries for last year's Flickerings included the work of professionals, students and amateurs.

Flickerings' seminars this year focus on independent cinema and ways to promote film screenings and drum up interest in participants' hometowns. A workshop allows attendees to make a film of their own, putting their theories and ideas into concrete form. The final films can be submitted into a new competition at the 2002 fest. The seminars and workshops, along with nightly gatherings for filmmakers to share war stories and network, comprise the new "Deep Focus" portion of this year's Flickerings festival.