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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, keeping my 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, meaning we needed to structure the shoot tightly to accommodate everyone's schedules. And with an 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 elements and letting them play out. The changes that occurred reminded me of all the fluid possibilities when telling film stories, and taught me how much meaning shifts when similar situations occur through the eyes of different people.


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