California festival celebrates life on big and small screens

Hollywood may not be known for promoting morals and values, but a new event aims to showcase the dignity of human life in the entertainment industry. 

The Life Fest Film Festival, which takes place April 15-16 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, will showcase movies in a variety of formats — including features, short films and commercial/mobile shorts, along with a script competition — that reinforce the sanctity of all human life.  

As of mid-March, festival organizers had received 120 entries, Brian Johnston, director of Life Fest, told Our Sunday Visitor. Those include submissions from as far away as Africa. And in the age of Youtube, where people are accustomed to uploading and watching short videos, it shouldn’t be surprising that the festival is attracting many 30- to 60-second film submissions. 

“It’s drawing out the next generation of filmmakers,” Johnston said. 

A highlight of the festival will be the showing of “Like Dandelion Dust,” an entry in the feature-film competition. Starring Oscar winner Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper (“Saving Private Ryan” and “True Grit”), the movie, about a couple struggling to keep custody of their adopted son when his bio-logical parents try to get the boy back, has garnered many awards at festivals, including the Las Vegas International Film Festival and the Heartland Film Festival. 

The festival will also feature an “Industry Insiders Discussion Panel” that will offer participants a peek into the world of filmmaking. Panelists will include actors Clint Howard and Charlie Holliday. Another VIP will be actor and game-show host Ben Stein, who will speak during the closing ceremony. Many people know him from his comedic films, such as “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” and his game show “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” but few know his commitment to the pro-life cause, Johnston said.  

“[Stein] is a very eloquent and powerful speaker on the issues of life,” Johnston said. 

Can’t make it to Los Angeles? After April 16, online visitors will be able to view submissions for a small fee. For more information, visit


Musical monk’s new Mass settings 

A line from one of the songs, “Open My Eyes,” on John Michael Talbot’s new album implores, “Open my ears, Lord, help me to hear your voice. Open my ears, Lord, help to hear.” 

It could be argued that the man known as the troubadour for the Lord is trying to open Catholics’ ears to the richness of the Mass prayers that will soon be used in the Church. 

The new CD, “Worship and Bow Down,” which will be released by Oregon Catholic Press in June, features Mass settings from the new English translation of the Roman Missal to be implemented Nov. 27. Sung in a “contemporary chant” style, the prayers are simply yet beautifully arranged, relying on Talbot’s voice and backup singers. 

“It was my goal to create songs that facilitate genuine worship and praise, and a Christian experience of deeper meditation through modern chant and song,” the lay monk said in a statement

The album also features songs such as “Breathe,” “Sacred Silence” and “Jesus Prayer.” To find out more, visit or


A guide to praying in our digital culture 

In these days of Facebook, Twitter and smartphones that keep us connected 24/7, prayerful silence can seem to be a thing of the past. After all, isn’t that why so many people fast from technology during Lent? 

But it doesn’t have to be that way, writes Matt Swaim, producer of EWTN’s “Son Rise Morning Show” radio program. His new book, “Prayer in the Digital Age” (Liguori, $16.99), provides guidance on how to incorporate prayer into today’s technology-driven age.