You may recall the documentary film, Return to Palau, on the tragic story of a young missionary family that moves to the idyllic island nation of Palau and suffers an unthinkable tragedy. Return to Palau has won several awards, including third place in the International Christian Film Festival, Inc (ICFF), the largest Christian film festival in the world. Pictured receiving the award are the film's director Michelle Hamel (second left) and producer, Ann Hamel (second right), along with their husbands, Matt (left) and Loren (right).

May 12, 2022

'Return to Palau' wins award at International Christian Film Festival

Return to Palau, the documentary film which shares tragic story of a young missionary family that moves to the idyllic island nation of Palau and suffers an unthinkable tragedy, won third place for best documentary at the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando, Florida, on Friday, May 6, 2022.

The International Christian Film Festival, Inc (ICFF) is a not-for-profit faith-based organization that was started on September 15, 2011.  From its inception, the goal of the organization has been to put God first as it seeks to promote Christian filmmakers and artists from around the world. The organization provides an opportunity for anyone to submit their faith and/or family film, documentary, or music. A team of 10 judges select the best submissions to receive rewards during their yearly festival. During the festival, the organization provides classes and seminars as well as opportunities to network and fellowship with other filmmakers in addition to a red carpet and an Oscar-Style award ceremony. 

This year there were hundreds of documentary submissions to the festival, 63 of which were official selections and 13 were nominated for Best Documentary. Return to Palau depicts not only how a tragedy impacts a missionary family but an entire nation. The president of Palau publicly apologizes for what happened to the family and calls for a National Day of Mourning. Through recently uncovered archival footage and first-person accounts, the film shares an incredible story of survival, faith, and forgiveness.

The film’s global premiere was held in Palau on March 16, 2022, with more than 1,500 people in attendance, the largest ever in-door gathering of people in the history of Palau, according to the president, with a second showing later that week. The film has also been premiered on the campuses of Southwestern Adventist University and Andrews University, both with repeat showings.

Return to Palau has won several awards so far. The International Christian Film Festival, Inc (ICFF) is the largest Christian film festival in the world so winning third place in this festival is a prestigious award. The film was shown on Friday evening, May 6, at the Wyndham International Resort in Orlando, Florida. The third-place award was given on Saturday evening, May 7. Executive producers Loren & Ann Hamel and Matthew & Michelle Hamel and were all there to receive the award.

The film will be publicly released within the next few days, making it available for purchase or rent online. Please go to the website to find more information related to the film’s release as well as how you might contribute to furthering the legacy and mission of the DePaiva family.  The film is currently being translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese. Proceeds from the film and donations from those who wish to participate will be used to produce additional translations of the film.

To view a trailer, download a digital flier, or find more information, email Ann Hamel at You can read the Lake Union Herald cover story on the film here.

Ann Hamel is the producer for Return to Palau.