For better or worse, movies have become one of the primary driving forces behind our modern culture. In fact, in a relatively short period of less than one hundred years, movies have grown into one of the most successful claimants upon the time of our society. And—perhaps predictably—movies have gone from simple stories that portray life to dramatic and often bizarre themes that are then all too often acted out in real life.

Why is the medium of film so pervasive and influential? And more importantly, can Christians—and particularly Christian homeschoolers—do anything to take this highly effective, but often misused medium of entertainment and claim it for Christ?

The people behind the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival think we can. Recognizing the potential of Christians in the filmmaking industry, Doug Phillips, President of Vision Forum Ministries, began the SAICFF in 2004 to provide both motivation and opportunity for aspiring Christian filmmakers to participate in what is now a burgeoning community.

Jonathan and I had the opportunity to go to the SAICFF this year. In this article, I’ll describe what we found there, why homeschoolers are such a formidable part of independent Christian filmmaking, how your family can get involved in the movement, and perhaps most importantly, what the Christian independent filmmaking industry can teach us all about impacting the world for Christ.

The Festival

Immediately upon entering the festival, we could sense the standard of excellence and quality that pervades the modern Christian filmmaking movement. The attitude was optimistic and expectant, and the atmosphere around the convention center was almost like a family gathering. People exchanged greetings with friends, stories were shared, and new friendships began.

Possibly the single most remarkable aspect of the festival was the diversity of the films that were entered. Joshua Eddy, a homeschool student of 15 and an aspiring filmmaker, was impressed. “I think it’s really cool,” he said. “I mean, we’ve got an epic Dark Age medieval thriller, we’ve got a comedy musical western, we’ve got Lego animations.” Joshua’s father, Mike, agreed. “It can’t go anywhere but up!” he said enthusiastically.

The Von Trapp Children (great-grandchildren of the Von Trapp’s in The Sound of Music) gave several concerts throughout the festival. I had the opportunity to speak with Melanie Von Trapp for a few moments, and her comments seemed to get right to the essence of the entire festival: “I think that it’s amazing that these people have put together an event to help bring about films that bring hopeful messages. That means a lot to us because of our family history. The Sound of Music … was an awesome message that they put in that, and it reached so many people and changed a lot of lives.”

And changing lives for the better was indeed the overarching theme of the entire 2009 San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.

The Films

In his address at the opening ceremonies, Doug Phillips made the point that the filmmakers and other attendees at the SAICFF were not there just to escape from the world’s entertainment or even to simply have a good time. That was obvious as we talked with filmmakers and other people at the festival. These are people who have a fervent desire to make a real difference in the world and reach people with the gospel.

During our time at the festival, we spoke with Stephen Kendrick (producer of Fireproof) and heard two presentations by Dean Jones. Both of these gentlemen are intensely interested in bringing people to Jesus. Nor were they alone, as several of the films we saw had distinctively evangelistic themes.

Additionally, there were other films which reached out to Christians to inspire them to courage, vision, and a pure, upright lifestyle. In short, the films at the festival were not merely entertainment with a quick sermon thrown in somewhere; they were developed from the ground up to inculcate a Biblical worldview.