a Family Film Festival?
Rolfe, chairman, The Dove Foundation
are two types of film festivals: one for the general
audience and one that focuses on movies suitable for the
family. It’s important to distinguish between the two.
While the fundamental goals of these two types are
similar, the ways in which each one goes about
accomplishing their goals are very different.
film festivals, regardless of type, celebrate the
creative process. General audience film festivals tend
to deal with more openly controversial subjects as part
of that creative process. They are also likely to resort
to more graphic portrayals of their subject matter. That
is why open film festivals are heavily populated by
win an award at one of these festivals, one must select
a “hot” topic to get the attention of the judges. Two
examples of recent festival winners that dealt with
controversial issues and also won great acclaim at film
festivals are Brokeback Mountain, a western about
two homosexual cowboys, and Million Dollar Baby,
a cleverly crafted movie that tried to make a case for
assisted suicide. It’s interesting to note that neither
of these “award-winning” movies performed well at the
is a general audience film festival for every
conceivable theme or issue. Some cater to specific
cultures and ethnicities, while others, mainly
documentaries, focus on lifestyles like homosexuality,
or environmental issues such as global warming or world
Family films come in two styles; animation and live
action. Animated films are produced mostly for the
younger set, but they usually contain themes emphasizing
such profound issues as redemption, reconciliation,
forgiveness and sacrifice. Live action family movies
tend to focus on the same themes, but the subject matter
is directed at a more mature audience.
significant ingredient that separates family films from
the others is the way they portray those themes. When
describing family fare, words like “wholesome,”
“virtuous,” “positive” and “uplifting” come to mind.
Like music lyrics, movie themes can be expressed
sublimely or egregiously. Portrayals of sex, violence or
rough language are expressed differently in these two
types of films. Family films “turn the volume down” to a
more universally accepted level. This is most often done
by sticking with implied, rather than graphic portrayals
of inappropriate behavior.
are 840 film festivals worldwide according to Internet
Movie Data Base (http://www.imdb.com).
The most popular festivals outside the US are the Cannes
Film Festival, (http://www.festival-cannes.fr),
Toronto International Film Festival, Berlin
International Film Festival (http://www.berlinale.de),
and the Venice Film Festival (http://www.labiennale.org/en/cinema).
A producer friend of mine said these foreign festivals
are more for the purpose of advance publicity than they
are a pursuit of an award.
The best known film festival in America is the Sundance
Film Festival (http://festival.sundance.org),
founded by actor/director, Robert Redford in 1981 in the
mountains of Sundance, near Park City, Utah. According
to festival literature; independence, creative
risk-taking, and discovery are the guiding principles of
the nonprofit Sundance Institute. The Slamdance Film
also in Park City, was founded in 1994, and has become
popular among independent filmmakers as an alternative
Local and regional festivals have sprung up at an
amazing rate. One key advantage to these smaller events is that they are a great
place for upcoming filmmakers to launch their careers by
submitting their work to a team of qualified judges.
Many general film festivals are seeing the wisdom of
including the family audience. The USA Film Festival (http://www.usafilmfestival.com)
has been in Dallas for 36 years.
Twenty-two years ago,
they began offering a separate KidFilm Festival (http://www.usafilmfestival.com/kidfilm06/KF06p3.html).
Their literature claims it is “the oldest and largest
family film festival in the United States.” They further
state that, “Film and video are our most accessible art
forms (and one of
our most valuable teaching/learning tools),
KidFilm gives audiences of all
ages an important opportunity to see (and discuss) great
n 2002, the Tribeca Film Institute successfully
launched the First Annual Tribeca Film Festival (http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org/).
Created by Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro, the
mission of the Tribeca Film Festival is to enable the
international film community and the general public to
experience the power of film by redefining the film
festival experience. The Tribeca Film Festival was
founded to celebrate New York City as a major
filmmaking center and to contribute to the long-term
recovery of lower Manhattan.
To their credit, the organizers of Tribeca have devoted a
large segment of their festival to the family audience.
They even had a panel discussion called
WHAT WOULD JESUS...DIRECT?,
featuring Cuba Gooding Jr.
(Jerry Maguire, As Good as It Gets);
President of Grace Hill Media;
President of Walden Media, (Chronicles of Narnia, Because of Winn-Dixie);
Ralph Winter, Producer (X
Men I, II, III, and Fantastic Four). Micheal and Ralph are members of The Dove Foundation
International Family Film Festival (http://www.iffilmfest.org)
in Dallas, TX is dedicated to
quality family programming. They ask that all the
material presented during the festival will somehow
entertain, engage, and further educate viewers for the
purpose of gaining new perceptions and insights into the
Another outstanding festival that focuses on
family-friendly material is the Heartland Film Festival
a non-profit organization in Indianapolis, IN.
established in 1991 to “recognize and honor filmmakers
whose work explores the human journey by artistically
expressing hope and respect for the positive values of
Religious entertainment is an $8 billion a year business so it’s no
wonder that following the blockbuster success of Mel
of the Christ, Hollywood began to mine the
Christian market for some new ideas with hopes that the
faithful would follow. And they have. In a movement
that mixes spirituality with economics, studios are
embracing a future of filmmaking about matters of faith.
Several religious film festivals have come into prominence
recently. The Damah Film Festival, (http://www.damah.com),
founded in 2001, is held in Culver City, CA, home of
(taken from the storytelling form known as the parable)
encourages an emerging generation of filmmakers from
diverse perspectives to voice the spiritual aspect of
the human experience through film. The festival provides
a forum for these artists to develop, discuss and
display their vision.
newcomer to the religious film festival arena is The 168
Hour Film Project (http://www.168project.com)
which gives each entrant filmmaker,
cast and crew a verse of scripture and one week (168
hours) to write, direct and edit a short film that
exemplifies the verse. All films are created
simultaneously during production week to premiere at the
168 Hour Film Festival.
At the end of the festival, awards are given to entrants
for categories such as Best Picture, Best Actor and
Actress, and Best Screenplay.
Today’s movie ticket prices are extremely high, making a big screen
movie experience nearly prohibitive for a typical
family. During prime times, tickets run between $7 and
$12 dollars each, depending on the city. Even during
lower priced matinees, a family with 4 children will pay
about $40 to see one movie. When you add $6.00 for one
popcorn/soft drink combo, $2.50 for a box of candy, and
$3.00 for a hot dog, the average family can barely
afford one or two movies a year.
The Dove Family Film Festival (http://www.dove.org/festivals.asp?ArticleID=29)
is quite unique from the events I’ve described so far.
It was not established to hand awards of
recognition to filmmakers. Rather, its purpose is to
make uplifting, wholesome movies readily available for
families to watch…at affordable prices.
Twice a year, in the spring and fall, we select eight recently
released movies that have received the Dove
Family-Approved Seal. In cooperation with a theater
chain and media sponsors, we offer FREE movie passes to
children ages 12 and under. Moms and dads and older
siblings pay a reduced admission fee typically around
$2.50. Each festival exhibits one movie a week for eight
weeks. The outpouring has been tremendous! Parents or
guardians that would never have had the money to take
their children to enjoy an uplifting wholesome movie can
now afford that experience as many as 16 times a year.
So you see? There are actually three types of film festivals; two
that honor filmmakers and one which serves movie-goers.
Go online to the Dove Family Film Festival page. Look
for the dates and cities of the next Dove Family Film
Festival. If you don’t seen one close to where you live,
contact us. Perhaps you could help us to organize one in
The Dove Foundation is a
501(c)3 non-profit organization. Our mission is to
encourage and promote the creation, production,
distribution and consumption of wholesome family
entertainment. We are supported primarily by donations
from families such as yours who want to move Hollywood
in a more family-friendly direction. All donations are
Copyright © 2006 The Dove Foundation. All rights