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Real Life Heroes

LONE SURVIVOR-Rated R

Hay Folks!

Hope your summer is going well. With summer blockbusters in full swing I just want to put a bug in your ear and suggest something. Instead of watching a film about fictional heroes, how about watching a film based on actual heroes?

I finally had the privilege of reading the book Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell and then steeled my soul to watch Peter Berg’s impressive film based on the book. I don’t generally clamor to see R rated films for reasons that I won’t bore you with. But I did see this one. After reading the book, I felt the need to see this film. And I feel called to ask you all to see it, if you have not already done so.

Fair warning. It is a very difficult film to watch, heartbreaking actually. You probably already know the film chronicles the story of four Navy SEALs on an ill-fated covert mission to neutralize a high-level Taliban operative Ahmad Shah (well played by Yousuf Azami) in remote and mountainous North-Eastern Afghanistan. Like the book, the film depicts the SEALS compassionate refusal to kill 3 goat shepherds that find them spying on Shah. It is this knowingly sacrificial decision that ultimately leads to the Team being completely outnumbered and fighting valiantly for survival. The film is bloody, violent, troubling and has lots of language. But it also exemplifies extreme sacrifice for not only strangers, but for each other. These men are brothers in the truest sense. And the film clearly depicts their devotion to each other’s survival. The film is full of great compassion, courage and loyalty. And it is an extreme example of the ultimate act of putting others first.

Now granted, there are a lot of war films out there. And many of them are really, really great. But this one is unique. Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) survives because of SEAL Team LT Mike Murphy’s (played heroically by Taylor Kitsch) sacrifice and very courageous Pashtan Villagers who protect and defend him with their own lives. This small village is ferocious in their defense of Luttrell, yet gentle in convincing him that they are not his enemy. But what got to me most was that these Villagers understand and fully appreciate that American soldiers have nothing to gain by fighting the Taliban along side them and everything to lose. They fight and die because they believe they are called to protect the World. And they enter into these villagers’ fight willingly, expecting nothing in return. I wonder how many of us here in the US even give a second thought to thanking a service man or woman when we see them in the grocery store.

We take so much for granted here in Austin and in American. Life is pretty great here. This film is a visual representation of the men who served the American people and the World to the fullest extent possible in it’s most violent and remote region. There was only 1 survivor from SEAL Team 10. He wrote his story down so we could know the men who gave everything for the good of others. His story was made into a film so that we could understand and appreciate what our world might become without those who are willing to serve others first. Isn’t this what living the Gospel life is all about?

So, I challenge you to see this film. Have a box of Kleenex at your side. And I also challenge you to support our men and women in uniform in a tangible way. Please consider donating to:

In November we will be screening Return to Mogadishu: Remembering Black Hawk Down a powerful short documentary on the 1993 ill-fated mission. We are working on scheduling it to coincide with Veterans Day. Be sure to check our website for dates and times. At this screening we will be collecting donations for both organizations. We hope you will join us in honoring our fine men and women in uniform.

MORE ABOUT THE LONE SURVIVOR FOUNDATION

After surviving his operations in Afghanistan, Marcus returned home to his ranch in Texas, the center of his post-combat recovery and restoration. There, Marcus had time to recover, to think and to feel the love and support of close friends and family as he healed his wounds. Based upon first hand experiences of what is needed to provide holistic healing beyond standard government programs, Marcus established the Lone Survivor Foundation in 2010 with the intent to bring the wounded service members into the same type of environment that healed Marcus. A place of solitude and beauty, where there was a close-knit and understanding support system. A place where the service members and their families could heal together as they all worked through the consequences of war. The Foundation is dedicated to honoring and remembering American service members by providing unique educational, rehabilitation, recovery, and wellness opportunities to U.S. Armed Forces members and their families.

Blessings

Jamee Kennedy

TAFF Executive Director

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Let God Wins the Audience Favorite Award at TAFF 2014.

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(April 5, 2014) After counting all the ballots where audience members of TAFF voted on their favorite film of the festival, TAFF announced that Let God has won the Audience Favorite Award at TAFF 2014. This adds to the list of awards that Let God won this year to include:

  • Best Film
  • Best Feature
  • Audience Favorite
  • Best Director (William Parker)
  • Best Female Performance (Jasmin Jandreau)

Let God Adds More Awards to its List

In addition, Let God won both “Best Feature” and “Best Actress” honors at the 2013 Breckenridge Film Festival. Let God was also an official selection at the 2013 Gideon Film Festival and has earned the Dove “Family-Approved” Seal for any age. “This is a terrific Story!” said the Dove Foundation. “The writer/director (William Parker) and leading actress Jasmine Jandreau, as Amelia, somehow manage to make this story of survival a powerful movie about trials and a faith that overcomes all odds…You will enjoy watching this one. Don’t miss it!”

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Thank You for a Wonderful TAFF 2014

Hey all!

We here at TAFF wish to thank all the filmmakers, TAFF STAFF, Alamo Drafthouse and, of course, you all for the wonderful response to TAFF 2014. What a year! We went from thinking there was no way we could do another fest to the best fest ever!

We are so grateful to the Lord and are lifting up prayers of praise and thanks as we speak.

We are all pretty tuckered out and so TAFF will take time to rest and recover and reconnect with (our much-neglected as of late) families. I’m going to the beach to just sit and recharge. Maybe I’ll come back. Maybe not . . . Just kidding. I’ll be back . . . eventually.

We want to thank each and every one of you who came to our screenings and to the FEST itself for your support, your funds and your kind hearts throughout the year. You have made the world of difference to this ministry and to me personally. MC group? I am talking to you! You know who you are. Thank you so much!

As we gear up for another year, please consider helping fund TAFF. We once again will face funding issues. If you believe this ministry can make a difference in spreading the Gospel throughout the city, we need you on board.

Have a great summer!
Blessings
Jamee Kennedy
TAFF

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TAFF 2014 ANNOUNCES WAYMAKER FUND WINNER – JEREMY RODGERS!

TAFF is so honored to announce filmmaker Jeremy Rodgers as this year’s WAYMAKER FUND recipient.

Congratulations Jeremy! Job well done.

Jeremy has participated in several TAFF events, and this year has submitted a short documentary into the festival, called Where We Belong. You can see Jeremy’s work in TAFF 2014 in film Block 5.

TAFF WAYMAKER FUND sponsored by Mark and Marj McClain

The way to GodA large part of TAFF’s mission is to support and empower talented Christian filmmakers to make the films God has called them to make. They often struggle with funding and support. In order to gather this support, filmmakers will often make a short film with the hopes of turning the same short into a longer version. In some cases, this never happens or It may take years to accomplish.

So, in light of this, TAFF has created the WAYMAKER FUND. The Waymaker Fund is a cash award that assists a deserving filmmaker to make a feature length film out of a successful short film. This year Mark and Marj McClain, long time supporters of TAFF, are sponsoring the award. Thanks Mark and Marj for making this possible.

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TAFF 2014 UPDATE as of March 1st

Well, TAFF 2014’s Competition is almost upon us. Wow. Time really flies. But we have been busily preparing and I have to say that God has gone before us. And He is behind us. We have had an incredible turn of events. We have amazing films, and just a wonderful Glorius God. It has been one miracle after another in the midst of swirling chaos.

NEW VENUE Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline Location

First off, we are changing venues for the fest. We are not going to be at Alamo Drafthouse-Village. (It’s a long story that we will tell you about someday. It’s pretty cool.)

We will be at the new, larger and wonderful Alamo Drafthouse – Lakeline at 14028 N US Highway 183, Austin, Texas 78717 (map). It’s a bit of a trek out there for some of you Central and South Austin folks, so plan accordingly for Friday night traffic – up 183 – in Austin Tx. I am laughing sarcastically as I write this. Seriously, be patient and kind in traffic.

The great news about changing locations is that the venue is brand new. It has better equipment, more seats, larger lobby space, better parking and the same yummy food and wonderful service. So we are definitely counting our blessings.

THE FILMS OF 2014

The films this year are the best ever! We’re really looking forward to screening them. From Switchfoot’s new, seeker-friendly, doc, Fading West, to Linsanity, the amazing Jeremy Lin story, to the stunning Award Winner, The Trail – all are captivating. We will also screen many wonderful short films including the hilarious, The Audition and New Year’s Resolution. These little shorts had our judges falling out of their chairs laughing while still speaking truth about how we live our lives and the impact we have for Christ on others. Don’t miss em!

Look for your favorite film selection’s screening times on our schedule page (click here to see the schedule) on the TAFF website on March 1st.

Speaking of schedule, since we will be at a theater venue this year, we have had to do thing a little differently in terms of scheduling as well. Since most folks start getting numb backsides after sitting for more than 2 hours we have arranged our screenings in blocks of time (just like a real movie theater schedule!)

Each block will screen 1 feature length film and a short (or two) with Q and A sessions for attending filmmakers of each film in that block. At the end of the block, the theater has to be cleaned and everyone -per health code rules- is required to leave the theater. And then we start all over again for each and every block. You will not be allowed to leave your stuff or save seats if you are coming back to the theater for the next block. It will work just like a real movie theater experience.

So, make finding seats easier, you will be able to buy RESERVED Seating – but online only. You will also be able to purchase several blocks, with Reserved Seating, and an ALL ACCESS pass. So all that to say, we STRONGLY encourage you to purchase tickets online beginning.

Of course tickets can be purchased the door as well – but only if the block still has seats available. So buy early and save yourself a seat!

Blessings,
Jamee Kennedy

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TAFF 2014 Announces Selected Films

After another year of viewing wonderful films, The Attic Film Fest is announcing it’s line-up for this year’s fest. TAFF would like to thank all of the filmmakers who submitted to this year’s festival. As we are moving the venue to the iconic Alamo Drafthouse (Lakeline Mall Location).

Documentaries

  • Return to Mogadishu: Remembering Black Hawk Down
  • Fading West
  • Linsanity
  • A Cry From Iran
  • Living Hope
  • Where We Belong

Features

  • Smitty
  • The Trail
  • Jimmy
  • Human People

Short Films

  • Charismata
  • New Year’s Resolution
  • Searching Serenity
  • Clip
  • Never Too Late
  • Harper Abbott
  • Salt
  • Direction
  • Thomas
  • St Paul Speaks Philippians
  • Something More
  • Heartfall
  • The Audition
  • Common Ground
  • Unburden

Student Films

  • Love Has Wings
  • No Compromise
  • Cardboard
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NOAH Movie Coming Soon!

Word on the new film Noah, starring Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson is that it is a visually stunning retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. There has been some criticism that the film takes license with the Bible’s version. Here are a few sections of an article appearing in Christian News online.

“A new Hollywood epic on the life of Noah has stirred controversy among Christians, Jews and others who have pre-screened the film, as they state that the movie largely leaves out one important foundation: the Bible.”

The dialogue indicates that this is indeed a retelling of the story but not an exact version. Some of the dialogue and characterizations are indeed not biblical. But that does not make it a bad film. It just makes the film, a film, and not the Bible. But God can and does use films to spread His Gospel. So before you go see it, bear in mind that Noah will most probably be a film that inspires folks to check out what the Bible says about Noah and the Flood. And frankly, if it gets folks to read a Bible, well, that’s ok with me. Seeds that are small have the potential to grow tremendous harvest. Go see it and you be the judge.

Here is an example of some of the dialogue:

“Man corrupted this world and filled it with violence, so he must be destroyed,” Methuselah explains to Noah, who has a dream of “death by water.”

As Noah begins to build an ark, he becomes the enemy of his brother-in-law Tubal-Cain. He tells Tubal-Cain to build his own ark, or die trying to take his.

“You don’t know your king,” Tubal-Cain asserts. “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”

“I’m not alone,” Noah replies confidently.

Blessings,

Jamee Kennedy

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HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT Screening

A HUGE SUCCESS

Hey, everyone! I want to thank all of you who attended the Hiding In Plain Sight screening on Nov 12. It was a wonderful night for TAFF, the Filmmaker M. Legend Brown and cast, and, I hope, for you all as well. It felt to us as if the Holy Spirit descended upon Alamo Drafthouse and just camped there for the duration of the event. Guys, we had 95 seats to fill and exactly 95 folks in ‘em. Only God. All Glory goes to him. We had folks hanging out in the lobby afterwards for over 45 minutes just wanting to connect with this sweet filmmaker and cast.

It was incredible to see such strong support from the Austin Christian community. As Jen Cumberbatch, our wonderful Q and A Moderator, said, “It was amazing to look upon the diverse nature of the crowd. It looks a little like what Heaven must look like.” I don’t know about you, but that sweet comment alone, made my night and confirmed that the Lord was in that theatre with us.

We feel so blessed to have been a part of this evening. All of the Glory must go to God. But you, our faithful supporters, also deserve thanks. We were expecting about 45 folks, at best. And then you all started coming in the door. And you just kept coming in. The cast did not even have a place to sit! They were happy to give up their seats and go have dinner. As our lovely TAFF Host Laurinda Rohrer joked, “But it’s ok. They have seen the film before.”

So we thank you for your support, your generosity, your kindness, and your faithfulness. We thank you for eating tons of Alamo Drafthouse Food (which allowed us to have a discounted venue rental rate. Please keep it up!) and we thank you for your patience as we learn how to best serve you in this ministry.

Our next screening is Dec 9th at 7pm at Alamo Drafthouse – Village Location on Anderson Lane (same place). We will be screening two films. First up, starting promptly at 7:05pm, the BEST FILM of 2013’s competition THE RIDE-PG (for intense situations). This is a wonderful film that allows us to explore what one ordinary person can do to impact the life of another for Christ.

Then Jen Cumberbatch will again host a Q and A Session with director Dallas Jenkins and Actor Kirk Woller (The Taxi Driver in The Ride).

TAFF 2013’s FAMILY FILM AWARD winner WHAT iF . . . PG will screen following the Q and A. What if . . . stars Kevin Sorbo (Conan, Soul Surfer), John Ratzenberger (Cheers, Toy Story) and Kristy Swanson (Early Edition, Psych) and is an exploration of the life choices we are given and the consequences of the decisions we make. The film’s themes are similar to the classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. It is a sweet and engaging film and you are sure to enjoy its humor, sweetness, and timely message.

After the second film, we are inviting everyone to walk across the parking lot to Cover 3 Restaurant for a very special informal Q and A with Dallas and Kirk. They have graciously agreed to hang out with the TAFF crowd and personally thank and meet all who attend. Again. Only God.

Read more about:

Dallas Jenkins at www.imdb.com/name/nm0420817/
Kirk Woller at www.imdb.com/name/nm0938570/

We are already starting to fill up seats. Please help us out by purchasing your tickets asap online. And thank you again for your support of TAFF. These two films, by the way, are perfect for non-churched neighbors, co workers, and friends. It is going to be a glorious night for the Gospel.

Blessings
Jamee Kennedy

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CAPTAIN PHILLIPS Review

So, I was blessed to see the new film Captain Phillips with Tom Hanks at a sneak preview last weekend. I highly recommend you see it as well. Beyond it being an extraordinary story of heroism and survival, Gospel themes abound! Before your read further, there are some reveals in this article that you may not want to know about before you see the film. So, fair warning.

The film is based on the 2009, real life capture of Captain Richard Phillips. Phillips was the Captain of the merchant marine vessel Maersk Alabama, that was hijacked by Somali pirates in international waters near the Cape of Africa. When all attempts to defeat the pirates fail, the Navy sends in Seal Team Six to rescue the Captain. Tom Hanks plays Phillips. Let me just say
Hanks performance is extraordinary. He is Captain Phillips. From the New Englander accent, to the goatee, he is Phillips. If this performance does not earn an Academy Award nomination, I will be very shocked.

This film is tense, captivating and completely fascinating. It is a study in the psychology of self-sacrifice, heroism and survival. There is violence to be sure, but it is not gratuitous, and thankfully sensitively handled. But what makes this film so special, is the conduct of the Captain. He willingly offers himself as a target and a hostage. And although he never loses sight of his captors as desperate, dangerous men, he offers medical aid and true concern for their well-being.

Phillips remains cool, calm and smart. He is cooperative and even helpful. But as the head Pirate, Muse’s intelligence and determination begin to surface, Phillip’s recognizes the desperate situation he is in. Muse is just as calm and cool as Phillips. He is unnervingly patient and calm. Muse’s life is examined in small bits and pieces. A line here and a line there begin to reveal the heart of this man. His line “I am the Captain now,” is downright chilling. He is a man who is trapped by the world’s economy and his own people. His choices are those of a person who has no hope. Yet, he remains hopeful that the capture will end well for all concerned. He is very determined to for his plan to succeed. As they speed toward Somalian waters in the Alabama’s tiny lifeboat, one thing becomes very clear. Muse is every bit the equal to Phillips.

The film has tons of parallels to the Gospel message. When you watch it, you will need to look beyond the intense drama-if you can. From the start of the film, Phillips is twitchy about the job. But he takes command of the vessel anyway. He makes sure his men are ready for any contingency. He protects them and puts them first. He sacrifices himself for them and gives them last minute instructions as he is being captured. He treats his captors with respect and, shows genuine concern and care for his enemy. Sound familiar? Phillip’s is clearly seen as a Messianic figure. And it could be argued that Muse is the embodiment of sin nature in man.

When the US Navy intervenes in the situation, Phillips tries to let his captors know that the Navy “cannot lose” in this situation. Muse understands the ramifications. And he counters with “I can not lose.” It smacks strongly of our human sin nature and how despite God’s abundant love, we put ourselves and our desires first. The Navy’s powerful presence is overwhelming. To the shock of the Pirates, the Navy knows everything about them. They flood the lifeboat with light and noise and although they are respectful and patient with the Somalians, they make it know what needs to be done to save Phillips. Muse knows the Navy is about to take control of the situation. When the Navy offers a gracious way out, Muse takes it-leaving his fellow captors to suffer the consequences of Seal Team Six’s expertise.

As Phillips desperately tries to write a goodbye note to his family, the three remaining captors begin to panic. They strip him, beat him, blindfold him, tie him and put a gun to his head. He cries out to the Navy for them to act-for them to end his ordeal. And Seal Team Six complies. And when it is over, he is covered with the blood of his captors. As he recovers on the Navy ship, gratefulness, grace and tears of joy rain from the screen and the audience. It is a truly beautiful scene that is allowed to run. We witness the healing process that trauma survivors must begin and weep with Phillips as he realizes that he is on his way home to his family. It is a marvel of a scene. It is a lesson that with the Lord where there is tragedy, there can be Grace. And where there is chaos, peace can abound. If you would like to share your comments about this film, we’d love to have em.

Blessings,
Jamee Kennedy

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A Call For Christian Commedies

So here’s a question. Why aren’t there more Christian comedies? What? God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Nothing funny ever happens to Christians? God created humor. He loves when we laugh. There are zillions of scripture references for joy and laughter. Even Issac’s name means “He laughs.”

Laughing is good for the body and the soul. I love to laugh. Most of my life is pretty dang funny. Hysterical stuff happens to me all the time. Like the time I went paddle boarding on Town Lake and this goofy duck hopped on my board and hitched a ride all the way to the Mopac bridge. I had folks coming up to us and asking if he was my pet duck! I have witnesses for that.

Families and friends that share in funny moments are cemented to each other. My son and daughter can recite Monty Python and the Holy Grail, accents and all, in its’ entirety. The family has heard all two hours of it on many a car trip. Trust me when you are driving through West Texas, by the time you get to Pecos, Monty Python becomes hilarious. Road signs are funny in Pecos. No offense to anyone in Pecos.

Watching my husband and one of his best friend’s banter is like watching Robin Williams and Jonathan Winters. When they start riffing no one can breath we’re laughing so hard.

Folks relax and walls come tumbling down when laughter is shared. When a film is funny, all kinds of discussion can happen. People naturally want to share in the comedy and connect. There is a natural affinity toward people you do not know when you are watching something funny. Here is a case in point. This summer my husband and I were blessed to attend a taping of The Late Show With David Letterman. The folks sitting next to us were strangers from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. By the end of the experience we were friends sharing our lives with each other and we were able to tell them about our church and this ministry. Laughing together at the same thing was the common ground.

The Cohen Brothers film, Oh Brother Where Art Thou? is another example. This film has strong Christian roots but it’s also really, really funny. It’s an homage to The Odyssey. But it has plenty of gorgeous down-home Gospel music, a baptism scene, open talk about salvation and the Bible, wonderful, quirky, strange characters and some of the funniest moments ever to grace the cinematic screen. The film was beloved by Christians audiences for its’ message of redemption, wonderful music and abundant humor.

The TAFF 2012 season included a film called Rogue Saints. This film is a light-hearted look at Christianity and how it can sometimes look to non -believers. There’s a fun scene where a guy who has lost his faith is trying to explain to another non-believer about the Holy Trinity. It’s hysterical. It had the audience guffawing. (Now there ‘s a funny word). But you know what? That film sold tons of copies. It won the TAFF Family Favorite Award and several more awards at three more Christian Film Fests. Why? Because it is very, very funny and it’s message is all about the Gospel. It’s silly. But it also has such a sweet spirit to it. The church family in this film is so endearing . . . and funny. As they help the two outsiders understand how much God loves them they gently fold these two young men into their church community. Does it get any better?

This year we have a sponsor who wants to create a Comedy Award. He is willing to put up good money for the film that wins this award. I had to tell him that we just don’t get very many comedies (we’ve had 2 submitted to date in almost 7 years) and that it will take awhile for filmmakers to catch on.

So . . . why aren’t there more Christian comedies? Why so few Rogue Saints-like films? We, here at TAFF, are issuing a challenge. To borrow from Field of Dreams, “If you make them, they will come.” So, come on Filmmakers. How about it? Are you in?

Blessings,
Jamee Kennedy