About The Production
REPENTANCE became a departure film for me. I had just completed my third film,
The Guru &
the Gypsy, and screened it for a small group, including Forest Whitaker. Forest
liked the film and
we talked about the struggle it examined, of a person trying to hold onto their
sanity and do the
right thing. I had played the part, but was suddenly struck by the entirely
different place it might
have gone if Forest had played it. I thought about the implications and
possibilities of retelling a
story more and more, and finally called Forest and suggested remaking the film
with him playing
the character. It would require a re-examination of all aspects of the story to
make a different
version equally authentic, which I found fascinating as a filmmaker.
In terms of directing, I am used to making films more the way a sculptor works,
budgets low so I can shoot and reshoot sequences, shaping the story until the
precise one I want to
tell finally emerges. REPENTANCE was to have a top line cast in all the roles,
needed to structure the shoot tightly to accommodate everyone's schedules. And
increased budget on the line, much of the work I would normally do while filming
on a smaller
scale needed to be done before we shot a frame.
Additionally, I am used to exploring new themes when I move from one film to the
next, and here
the interesting challenge would be re-examining the theme as a result of telling
the story with
different people. The decision to cast another person in the lead brought with
it a series of
implications reflecting that person. It led me to set the film in New Orleans
rather than Los
Angeles, which created different life choices for the characters. And we recast
the roles with an
entirely African-American cast. This changed the family history and cultural
impact on the
characters. The American dream that's being pursued took on a new significance,
as did the
motivations separating the brothers in the story.
I discovered from making the film, that even with a final script before
shooting, my normal
process of reshaping and refining the story remained possible by changing larger
letting them play out. The changes that occurred reminded me of all the fluid
telling film stories, and taught me how much meaning shifts when similar
through the eyes of different people.
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