(350543/Pixabay/Public Domain)

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The International Christian Film and Music Festival is coming to Orlando, Florida, from May 1-5. The annual competition, now in its sixth year, gives Christian content creators a place to network, hone their skills and find distributors for family-friendly content.

The festival has grown from 50 attendees its first year to over 4,000 this year, according to event founders. Marty Jean-Louis and Christopher Cuff founded the ICFF. Though the event has been just a film festival in past years, this year's event adds music.

"This year we decided to bring in music into it to show people how music and film come together and how to mash that up," Sue Crampton, director of operations, said. "Because you can't have film without music."

From May 2-5, the festival will screen hundreds of original films ranging from short student films to feature-length productions and documentaries. The event kicks off May 1 with a special performance by the Newsboys. The event culminates in an award show Crampton calls the "Christian Oscars."

The festival received nearly 700 submissions this year. The 12 nominees for Best Picture at this year's show include The Identical, Thy Neighbor, Wild Faith, Like Arrows, One Nation Under God, Freedom Net, My Many Sons, Edge of the World, Chasing the Star, The Redemption of Henry Myers, Prodigy and Heaven Bound. Full nominees are available at internationalcff.org/2018-official-nomination-feature-films/.

Though David Hoenig, one of the event founders, says the films don't have to be explicitly Christian, he says the festival encourages all films to champion wholesome family values.

"We want a 5-year-old to be able to come in and listen to it and he doesn't have to worry about covering his ears," says Hoenig. "But we need to make the content where it's exciting. [It] doesn't have to have Christian values, [but] it has to have wholesome family values. So it's just a good message, a feel-good movie when you're done, and it makes you do some thinking at the end."

Hoenig hopes the festival creates opportunities for Christian filmmakers to stand out in an industry increasingly open to faith-based productions.

"The market is really good for the Christian industry right now, and it's grown a lot," he says. "In the last six years, it's probably tripled in what we're seeing film-wise."

Crampton agrees, noting, "With what's happening in the world today, wholesome movies and messages are so necessary."

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