Films and TV drama have the power to change our view of the world – from how we understand history and events (think Braveheart or Belfast), how we see life (It’s a Wonderful Life or The Pursuit of Happyness), or how we perceive the lives of people whose experience is quite different from ours (The Theory of Everything or a film from another culture).

Whatever you think of these film choices, it is 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 film-makers in Egypt and the Arab world.

The participants in the festival

The Salam (“Peace”) Film Festival was held between 19-21 May 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 was not a barrier for entry.

Growing creativity

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 Maggie Morgan, director and producer of SAT-7 projects and 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, which honoured Thirsty Hearts, the first Christian drama series in Arabic, produced by SAT-7 over 20 years ago.

An award presented at the Salam Film Festival

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 her savings to a mission to Africa at her church.

Creative exchanges

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 disabilities. “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 – for art as a tool for honesty, empathy, and bridging understanding.”

*Top image caption: Maggie Morgan, producer and director of SAT-7 projects and an award-winner herself, with prize-winner Rina Rafik

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