Huge thanks to everyone who came out to AFF5!

Here’s a sincere secular THANK YOU to everyone who attended the 5th Annual Atheist Film Festival on Saturday, September 14 at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco. We hope you had a fantastic time – we definitely did.

We’d like to extend special thanks to our Sponsors and supporters; visiting directors/stars Scott Thurman, Sophia Winkler, and Sylvia Broeckx; the fantastic PR team at Larsen Associates; our amazing volunteers and dedicated staff; and – most importantly – every single person who came to the festival. This festival is truly “created by humans” – especially all of you who show your support by attending.

Thank you so much for supporting us this year and in past years, and we look forward to seeing you again in the future. Keep questioning!

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Last day to buy passes and tickets online!

Ticket sales for our fabulous Directors’ Reception end today, September 13, at noon.

Online festival pass and movie ticket sales end today, September 13, at 5 PM. To purchase online tickets, visit Brown Paper Tickets.

Passes and tickets will both be available at the theater tomorrow, September 14. See you there!

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AFF5 Q&A: Scott Thurman, The Revisionaries

The Revisionaries Film PosterFor the fifth anniversary of the Atheist Film Festival, we’re diving a little deeper into several of our films with director Q&As. Scott Thurman’s documentary The Revisionaries tracks a devoted creationist’s efforts to fight teaching evolution in Texas public schools. From Don McLeroy’s rousing appearance on the Colbert Report to new controversies over Texas curriculum, the debate around the issues raised in the film hasn’t died down. Here’s Thurman to give us the latest on the issues and the possibility of a follow-up.

What’s the current state of the Texas State Board of Education’s efforts to curtail science in the schools?
Right now the board is reviewing science textbooks. So far, the committee members that are selected to review these books prior to the SBOE’s debate have already voiced concerns that I’m sure will [also] be aired by far right board members when they debate the content at their next meeting in September. Although these review committees include educators and experts, they are chosen by the board and often share the same biases as the board members who select them.
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AFF5 Q&A: Sylvia Broeckx, Hug an Atheist

Hug an Atheist StillFor the fifth anniversary of the Atheist Film Festival, we’re diving a little deeper into several of our films by talking to our directors in detail. This week, we’re especially excited to bring you a Q&A with Sylvia Broeckx (say “Brooks”), the director of Hug an Atheist, who will be present for her film’s world premiere at our festival. Here’s what Sylvia had to say about her experience making a film that shows the human side of atheists.

What initially inspired you to make this film?
After being brought up as a Catholic (the default Christian denomination in Belgium), I became an atheist during my teens. Sure, not everyone agreed with my point of view, but I never had to hide from anyone: not from family, not from neighbours, not from potential employers. Being an atheist for me did not involve many battles, just great discussions.

I’ve always enjoyed traveling, especially to the US, and I have many friends in most of the states. A few of those friends are atheists and tend to post things on their Facebook pages about atheism in the US. These posts revealed to me quite how badly atheists are treated in the US, as well as how many untruths, misrepresentations and straight-out lies about atheism and atheists were being circulated. I found this both disturbing and upsetting, and quite frankly it made me angry. I knew I wanted to help and change these ridiculous notions, but it was my husband who said to me: “Want to make a difference? You’re a filmmaker! Make a documentary about the subject.” And so I did.

How did your motivation change as you progressed through the project, if at all?
I wouldn’t say my motivation changed. It did, however, grow stronger and stronger. I became more determined as people continued sending me emails with their personal stories and letting me know how much they would like to be able to show their family what atheists are actually about rather than being portrayed as hateful.

At the same time, I was personally–for the very first time–being confronted with abuse because of my non-belief. There were not only the short emails from strangers saying I would burn in hell, but also messages from people I not only knew but considered close friends. Apparently, they didn’t mind that I was an atheist as long as I kept it quiet, but making this documentary was apparently going a step too far.

On a more positive note, I’d also like to add that some Christians got in touch (and donated to the crowdfunding project) to say they’d love to find out how atheists deal with moments in life they think they couldn’t face without their faith.

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AFF5 Q&A: Scott Burdick, Sophia Investigates the Good News Club

Sophia Investigates the Good News ClubFor the fifth anniversary of the Atheist Film Festival, we’re diving a little deeper into several of our films by conducting some Q&As with folks who have extensive knowledge on the subject. This week, we bring you a Q&A with three folks who are seriously knowledgeable about the Good News Club, the subject of Scott Burdick’s thoughtful documentary Sophia Investigates the Good News Club.

Burdick’s film documents efforts to reveal the damaging teachings of an evangelical organization that meets in public schools across the country and around the world. To get more perspective on the Good News Club, we talked with director Scott Burdick (SB); Katherine Stewart (KS), author of a book about the Good News Club and a prominent voice in the film; and Eric Cernyar (EC), who maintains www.goodnewclubs.info and www.intrinsicdignity.com, sites designed to reveal the Good News Club curriculum and offer strategies to protect schools from the club’s teachings. Here’s your glimpse behind the scenes of this intriguing investigation and the intense opposition it received from people of faith.

What is the state of the Good News Club today?

Scott Burdick: The Good News Club is a very large organization, having programs in public schools in all 50 states, as well as 176 countries worldwide. Child Evangelism Fellowship, the club’s parent organization, has 750 full-time employees and an estimated 40,000 volunteers in the US, with an additional 1,200 overseas missionaries. It is hard to know how much the Good News Club is growing in schools since there is no independent monitoring of the programs, so we can only rely on what Child Evangelism Fellowship is willing to tell the public.

Eric Cernyar: Child Evangelism Fellowship claims to be operating in over 4000 American public school Good News Club programs.  Their goal is to have a club in every one of the nation’s 65,000+ elementary schools.  They are highly organized and systematically efficient.  They recruit conservative evangelical churches, across a wide swath of Protestant denominations, to “partner” with Child Evangelism Fellowship to sponsor Good News Clubs—and put God back into the schools.  Given its large size and history dating back to 1937, Child Evangelism Fellowship has little trouble signing churches up to spread its message.

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