Kimberly Winston attended the Atheist Film Festival in San Francisco last weekend and writes about how this isn’t just some fringe event:
While the San Francisco festival is the only explicitly atheist festival in the U.S., it is part of a larger trend. Portland, Ore., hosts a Humanist Film Festival; Tampa, Fla., has an International Freethought Film Festival; and Ottawa, Canada, offers the Free Thinking Film Festival.
Jews and Christians have long hosted their own film festivals, and S. Brent Plate, a scholar of religion and film based at Hamilton College, said festivals have the potential to bolster a group’s members, reach out to potential followers and educate them about issues.
“An independent faith film festival will create film fests for similar reasons — to be with other, like-minded people, to laugh together and cry together and think together,” Plate said. “It creates a sense of community. And ultimately, it gives people ideas that might trickle back into everyday life. Which is exactly the reason the so-called nonreligious groups do such things.”
I love the part where festival organizer Dave Fitzgerald explains the biggest rule for a film’s selection into the festival:
His main criteria for including a film is that it shows at least one atheist figure in a positive light.
“My motto is: Are they heretic friendly?” Fitzgerald said. “We are in a position where we can actually turn away movies because their hearts might be in the right place but they may be stilted and preachy.”
I like that! It’s like an atheist version of the Bechdel Test.
That shouldn’t be tough to find… and yet, I’m hard-pressed to think of more than a couple of positive atheist figures in movies, at least outside of documentaries. One reason festivals like this exist is to showcase those few examples and hope they inspire writers and directors to feature and develop atheist characters even further.