Films and TV drama have the power to change our view of the world – from how we look at history and events (think Braveheart or Belfast), how we see life (It’s a Wonderful Life or The Pursuit of Happyness), or how we understand the lives of people whose experience is quite different from ours (The Theory of Everything or a foreign language film from another culture).
Whatever you think of these film choices, it’s clear that, even while it entertains us, film can change the way we understand and look at life. This is the thinking behind SAT-7’s use of drama in productions like Backstage and a forthcoming TV film, Toxic, whose characters are looking for healing from the various forms of rejection and violence they have experienced. It is also one of the reasons for SAT-7’s support for a new short film competition for young Christian filmmakers in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Salam (“Peace”) Film Festival was held between May 19-21 in Al-Ajamy, Alexandria as an initiative of the Evangelical Church of Egypt. Its goals were to encourage and equip emerging Christian film-makers for the media industry, and allow them the opportunity to represent the issues in their societies that most concern them. Some 26 films from 65 submissions were selected to be shown and compete for awards. The short film format and inclusion of mobile film and screenwriting categories meant that a small budget wasn’t a barrier for entry.
A number of well-known figures in Egyptian TV and cinema took part, along with other TV professionals from SAT-7 and other Christian production houses. They acted both as judges and in leading seminars and question and answer sessions around creativity and the needs and challenges of media production. SAT-7 is always looking to encourage Christians with an interest in media and the festival aligned perfectly with its strategy to empower young people to make positive change within their culture and society.
SAT-7 Executive Producer John Adly and SAT-7 director and producer Maggie Morgan, herself an award-winning documentary and film-maker, were both panelists at the festival. Evidence of SAT-7’s role in nurturing Christian media talent also came in the opening ceremony when Thirsty Hearts, the first Christian drama series in Arabic, produced by SAT-7 over 20 years ago, was honoured.
At this festival, SAT-7 awarded the Best Director prize to Samuel Milad for Mariam¸ the story of an impoverished girl who, trusting God to supply her needs, gave all her savings to a mission to Africa at her church.
Afterwards, Maggie Morgan, gave her impressions of the festival.
She described it as “a great success and learning experience for me. I enjoyed meeting the filmmakers who produced the films. As a jury member, I had the privilege of watching all the films that were being screened.
“Meeting people working in the field is always enriching,” she explained. “This exchange of life stories and creative experiences widens all our scopes.”
She spoke as someone who benefited from SAT-7, years ago, when it screened her first documentary on people with special needs. “As the first Christian channel in the Middle East, SAT-7 holds a unique place among audiences and content producers,” Maggie said. “In fact, the prizes offered by SAT-7 were a great encouragement to all the prize winners.”
“Attending this conference heightened my awareness for the need for authentic storytelling – art as a tool for honesty, empathy, and bridging understanding.”
Featured image caption: Young Christian film makers gathered with experienced TV and film producers to learn and enter their short films in competition at the Salam Film Festival (Photo: Salam Film Festival).