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Lifestyle

March 13, 2008

Christian Film Festival returns with some things old and some new

Films without morals: Those you can see almost any week at the local cinemas.

This week, though, you can see films with morals at Lawrence's Showcase Cinemas during the Merrimack Valley Christian Film Festival.

The free festival will include five feature films and four children's matinees from Palm Sunday, March 16, through Easter Sunday, March 23.

Lawrence native Tom Saab, a Methuen/Salisbury real estate agent and "foot soldier for Jesus," is bringing the festival back for its 16th year.

Former "Love Boat" Captain Gavin MacLeod will make an appearance at the festival, Saab said, along with New England Patriot Don Davis and comedian Joe Manno. Manno's children's film is featured in the festival.

"We are expecting it to be a big event, with Gavin MacLeod," said Saab, who lives in Salem, N.H. "He was on 'Fox and Friends.' They were interviewing him about the 'Love Boat' DVD and he plugged us."

Saab began the festival in 1993 at the now closed Salem Tri Cinemas. Attendance has been consistently over 10,000 since then, he said. He organizes this festival — and others like it across the country — to share the Gospel.

"The most important thing we can do is share the Gospel with people," Saab said. "It's a unique way of sharing it through motion pictures. A lot of people want to hear about Christianity and what the Bible says."

For the past eight years, Saab has held his festival at the Showcase Cinemas in Lawrence. This year's lineup includes the world premier of "The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry," starring MacLeod. The festival also will feature the New England premiere of "Pilgrim's Progress — Journey to Heaven."

Picking the films is never easy. Sometimes, Saab said, the films find him.

"I am becoming the 'Siskel and Ebert' of Christian films," Saab said. "I probably watch anywhere from 25 to 30 films, some multiple times. Then I pick and choose what is going to work."

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