A semi-autobiographical film, The Gospel grew out of writer/director Rob Hardy and producer Will Packer's desire to tell a story they felt extremely passionate about, one they could really pour their hearts into. Under the banner of their 10-year-old production and distribution company, Rainforest Films, the duo had previously written, produced, and directed three critically-acclaimed independent films: their debut feature Chocolate City (a semi-autobiographical story about college life in Atlanta) and the dramatic films Trois and Pandora's Box (the latter of which landed Rainforest a coveted spot at #34 among the 500 top film distributors in the nation and was also one of 2001's top 50 highest grossing films). But Hardy and Packer feel that The Gospel, their fourth film collaboration, has a special resonance.
"The Gospel has been a labor of love," says Packer. "We believe in the values espoused in it, and we wanted to entertain people with a positive story that says no matter what trials and tribulations you go through, with faith you can overcome anything." The duo wanted to make a movie that would have the power to move people and make them think about their own lives. Inspired by the timeless biblical story of the prodigal son, they fashioned a story set in the African-American church against the backdrop of the contemporary gospel music scene.
Re-imagining the story for a modern audience, Hardy created David Taylor (played by Boris Kodjoe), a man whose temptation-filled life of wealth, fame, and sex has completely distanced him from his family, friends, and, most importantly, God. "If I had to describe the story in my own words, I'd say it's a
story about redemption, a story about somebody that's really struggling to find his own spirituality," says Hardy. "We wanted to tell a story from the perspective of a cynical guy who starts out in the church, leaves, then must return when tragedy happens. But when he comes back, he sees things differently." David's own transformation also becomes a catalyst for change in many of those around him, and several characters find themselves examining and readjusting their own lives to adopt positive changes and move towards the right path.
In addition to David's journey, the filmmakers also hoped to shed light on the reality of African-American church life, a vibrant, faith-filled world of song and praise, but a world filled with real people who have real problems. "We thought it would be cool to pull back the veil and look at what really goes on in church, and how people really want to do the right thing," Hardy says. "How they want to follow God, but like all of us, they have their flaws." The film shows how people are all connected, and when conscious of one another and working towards a common goal - like in a gospel choir- magic can happen.
"The Gospel is a film that says something not a lot of films are saying," adds Packer. "It's about really having the inner fortitude to overcome anything that's presented in front of you, and doing that with the help of God."
"The message we want to get across in The Gospel," continues Hardy, "is that what's most important in life is your personal relationship with God and what that means to you."
It's this spiritual message that motivated Holly David-Carter, a veteran Hollywood talent manager-turned-producer, to team with Hardy and Packer as executive producer to help get the film made. "There's a need for more stories about morality, redemption, faith, hope, and recovery," she says. "Those values are what this film is all about, and what people will respond to very deeply."
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