Orlando’s International Christian Film Festival showcases the gospel

Profanity, sex and violence are staples of today’s movie industry.

The fifth annual International Christian Film Festival, which is set to begin Thursday in Orlando, is designed to offer an alternative.

The films aim to spread the gospel but also offer a family-friendly environment that showcases the labors of people who make movies far from the glamour of Tinseltown.

“We want it to be safe for the whole family to watch,” said Chris Cuff, 51, executive producer.

The event began in a conference room at the Crowne Plaza hotel in downtown Orlando with 30 films.

It now screens 165 feature and short films, documentaries and music videos in three days.

More than 500 films from 40 countries were submitted, Cuff said.

The festival was founded by Marty Jean-Louis, who with Cuff produces wholesome TV shows, movies, news, and sports.

Jean-Louis attended a Christian film festival in Central Florida some years ago and decided to take it on himself when the small event folded.

The two also operate a production company called My Christian Films.

The festival includes an awards production on Saturday night that Cuff describes as a cross between the Oscars and church.

Honors are given for categories including best picture, actor, script, student film, most inspirational and audience choice.

“It’s very celebratory and the spirit is very high and positive,” he said.

Organizers hope to beat last year’s attendance of 2,000. They expect people to come from across the U.S. and Europe, Asia, South America and the Caribbean to see films submitted from as far away as Poland, New Zealand and Australia.

“We’re the biggest secret in Orlando, which is amazing,” Cuff said. “We have people from South Africa, but no one from Altamonte Springs or College Park knows about us.”

Religious celebrities expected to attend are actor and director David A.R. White, co-founder of PureFlix, a faith-based production and distribution studio; actor and former professional football player T.C. Stallings of the 2015 movie “War Room”; and retired WWE professional wrestler Shawn Michaels.

The festival schedule includes seminars in writing, acting, lighting, sound and budgeting films, a directors’ and producers’ forum and an opening-night party.

But the mission is higher.

“Faith is central,” said Cuff, who describes God as the real director. “We believe in Jesus Christ and spreading the gospel. [The festival] gives us the opportunity to be creative and still do some good.”

Last year, the festival was at a hotel near Walt Disney World and included movies from Poland, New Zealand and Australia.

This year, it’s at Wyndham Orlando Resort International Drive.

For more information, go to www.internationalcff.org.

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