By Seth Daniel
Faithful crowds will flock to the Showcase Cinemas starting this Thursday as the first annual Greater Boston Christian Film Festival gets rolling in Revere.
The festival features several prominent Christian movies for adults and children and will last from September 24 to October 1 – and itâ€™s totally free.
Additionally, the festival will feature guest appearances by Patriots tight end Ben Watson on Tuesday, September 29; recording artist/actress Rebecca St. James on September 25 and 26; and actor David A.R. White as well.
The festival is being put on for free by Christian Film Festivals of America, which is based in Methuen, but itâ€™s also strongly sponsored by Eagle Heights Church in Revere, under Pastor James Collins.
Tom Saab, founder of Christian Film Festivals, said the movie marathon would be the largest outreach effort in Boston since the 1980s.
â€œWeâ€™re probably going to see well over 100 evangelistic churches in Greater Boston promote this,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a unity thing for evangelical churches, whether theyâ€™re Southern Baptist, Conservative Baptist, Nazarene, or whatever. This is a ministry that brings everyone together and reaches out to those that donâ€™t know the Lord. It will be the biggest evangelistic outreach since Billy Graham came to Boston University in 1982.â€
Saab began his ministry in 1993, after spending many years working with the Billy Graham Crusades and other outreach efforts. He planned his first festival for 3,000 people in the Merrimack Valley and inspired 14,000 to attend.
Since then, theyâ€™ve done 37 Christian Film Festivals in places as far away as central California and as nearby as Lawrence. He said the ministry is a volunteer effort, which is why it is free of charge, and no one takes a collection. He said the idea is to unify churches, but mostly to expose people to the Gospel with movies.
â€œThere are people who wonâ€™t go into Eagle Heights or Central Congregational Church or the North Shore Assembly of God, but you can get them to come to a movie theater for free,â€ Saab said. â€œThatâ€™s the idea – to expose people to the Gospel through movies.â€
The idea to bring a film festival to Boston has been a longstanding idea, but was recently prodded into existence by Pastor Collins at Eagle Heights.
â€œHe said that his church had been looking for something like this to get involved in,â€ Saab said. â€œHe said he wasnâ€™t going to be behind me on this, but rather beside me – and they have been.â€
He said they chose Revere because of a longstanding relationship with National Amusements and because of its great location.
â€œRevere was the best place for Greater Boston because we needed a large seating capacity, and the Revere cinema has that; plus it has tremendous parking, and itâ€™s easy to get to,â€ Saab said.
He also stressed that the festival isnâ€™t a con job where they leave with a huge profit – which is the case with some evangelistic efforts.
â€œNobody gets paid; I donâ€™t get paid a penny,â€ he said. â€œAll of the volunteers donate their time. All of the guests are coming for free. Ben Watson of the Patriots gets an honorarium wherever he goes, but heâ€™s coming here at no charge. Nobody is pocketing money and leaving Greater Boston.â€
Six prominent Christian movies will be featured throughout the eight days of the festival. Likewise, there will be special live performances by the Teen Challenge Choir on September 24 and childrenâ€™s movies featuring the popular Veggie Tales cartoons. Each day of the festival will run from approximately 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
One of the more prominent movies is â€œSarahâ€™s Choice,â€ a movie that will premier at the festival.
Saab said the plot involves a young woman who finds herself pregnant out of wedlock and must choose between keeping the baby or advancing her career.
â€œThis will be the number one pro-life movie in America,â€ he said, noting that it stars St. James. â€œWe believe it will help thousands and thousands of young ladies and girls turn away from abortion when they see it. When this gets out and is released all over, it will be huge.â€
Other movies include â€œFacing the Giants,â€ a football movie about a Christian high school team and their struggles on and off the field. Watson will appear Tuesday night, before showings of the movie.
â€œItâ€™s a very emotional movie, and Iâ€™ve actually seen people jumping up and cheering them on in the theater,â€ Saab said.
Another movie, â€œSaving God,â€ features Ving Rhames (â€œMission Impossibleâ€ and â€œCon Airâ€ star) as a former convict who takes a ministerial position at a church in a troubled neighborhood.
Other films include â€œBlink of an Eye,â€ â€œFireproof,â€ â€œWWJD? The Movie,â€ and a live performance of â€œHolyman Undercoverâ€. Following each movie, there will be a brief Gospel message based on the movie, Saab said.
A full schedule with times can be found on the website www.christianfilmfestival.org or by calling 781-284-4970.
Saab concluded by saying anyone experiencing a tough time would be encouraged by these films.
â€œThere are people out there struggling with the economy and their families,â€ he said. â€œEverybody is going through something out there. I like to encourage people that if they know someone struggling and having problems, bring them out to the movies so they can be encouraged…The film festival helps people going through difficult times.â€