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Monday, October 10, 2005

The Gospel

—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections


Over the last few years, we have seen an increase in African American films with a focus on Christianity. There was the much heralded, fun filled flick, The Fighting Temptations, and last year’s enjoyable Tyler Perry movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. While I personally enjoyed The Fighting Temptations, I also felt that while worthy of discussion Diary of a Mad Black Woman had some things to be desired. I must also comment on last years surprisingly well acted and written T.D. Jakes movie with a backdrop of abuse titled Woman Tou Art Loosed.

This fall we have the release of another film that can be added to this genera, The Gospel, staring Boris Kodjoe, Idris Elba, Nona Gaye, Clifton Powell, Donnie McClurkin, and featuring the likes of Fred Hammon, Hezekiah Walker and Yolanda Adams, also features a sound track thrown together by non other than Kirk Franklin. What we have as a result of this effort written and directed by Rob Hardy is a contemporary story straight out of the Bible itself. Done in a manner that will catch the attention of those coming from a Christian persuasion or non religious tradition, The Gospel is about story, a story that tells of a long lost son coming home to a father who loves him and wants the best for him.

I have to get my one major quirk about this movie out of the way first. I was actually very disappointed in the editing of the film. As a person who loves music and is a musician, it would have been worth the effort, especially in the opening sequences to synchronize things like hand claps and vocals. There were numerous times that the timing of both the vocalist on the screen and the claps of those in the congregations of the churches were off from the sounds on the sound track. I hate to use this comparison, but those sequences reminded me of the opening scenes of the movie The Jerk, when the character played by Steve Martin finally discovers his rhythm. Thankfully, just like in The Jerk, the movie finds its beat and carries on with a rhythm that has the audience tapping its toes, and swaying their bodies through out the duration of the movie.



Kirk Franklin has thrown together a sound track and music composition that is among the best of any film in a long time, including the much-heralded The Fighting Temptations. The music is professional, layered, and extremely well produced. I was able to enjoy the music not just for its valuable contribution to the story line, but for the professional quality and performance. Mixing Latin beats along with Black Gospel Influences we are reminded why Black Gospel singers such as Thomas Dorsey were able to make such significant contributions to contemporary Rhythm and Blues, and Rock N Roll. This sound track is a reminder to the church as to the excellence that they could once again have on a contemporary society. The tradition of music in the African American Church has not been displayed as well since the classic release of the documentary Say Amen Somebody.

The story line of The Gospel centers around the character of David Taylor played by Boris Kodjoe. The son of a pastor and singer in the choir, he becomes disillusioned with his faith after his mother dies. He leaves the church and after 15 years of being on the road comes into success in the music business. After finding out that his father has become ill he returns home to his father and to the church. Along the way he falls for a young single mother and has a series of conflicts with his former friend and cousin Frank played by Idris Elba. It seems as if both have lost their focus and vision for what the church is and what the church is for. The story that follows is not only a return to their roots in their love for their church, but also a journey to rediscover friendship, and love for family.

The concept of rediscovering love is one that will satisfy all individuals whether coming from a faith principle or not. Along the way, decisions and soul searching must take place. While we don’t get too deep into that soul searching we get deep enough that we can all relate to the characters in some ways. I was actually refreshed with the honesty of the searching of the characters in the film. While we see the struggles we also see the self retrospection that each individual goes through at times of trouble. What we see as a result of the pain that each of the characters goes through is growth. It is unfortunate that pain is the catalysts that produces growth, but that is unfortunately the formula that seems to work in our world. The old saying, “No Pain No Gain,” is not only true on the athletic field, it is true in life.

Clifton Powell plays the part of Bishop Fred Taylor beautifully. While he could have overplayed his part, he plays it with a sincerity and honesty that is refreshing. In the simplicity of the character we see a father who has never quit loving his son. A father, who despite his son taking off and leaving his faith and family, welcomes his son back with the open arms of love. How refreshing it is to see an African American man played with such honesty, while at the same time loving his family and working hard to show his family, and those around him that he loves them. Powell is one of several positive male role models portrayed on the screen. We see his unwillingness to change, and the power of love, to change others. With the negative themes often played out in today’s movies this was a refreshing experience.

As mentioned earlier in the review, this story reminds me of another story in the Bible where a father welcomed back his son with open arms after the son had left his home. That story comes from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. Taken from the Contemporary English Version it reads:

11Jesus also told them another story:
Once a man had two sons. 12The younger son said to his father, "Give me my share of the property." So the father divided his property between his two sons.

13Not long after that, the younger son packed up everything he owned and left for a foreign country, where he wasted all his money in wild living. 14He had spent everything, when a bad famine spread through that whole land. Soon he had nothing to eat.

15He went to work for a man in that country, and the man sent him out to take care of his pigs. 16He would have been glad to eat what the pigs were eating, but no one gave him a thing. 17Finally, he came to his senses and said, "My father's workers have plenty to eat, and here I am, starving to death! 18I will go to my father and say to him, `Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. 19I am no longer good enough to be called your son. Treat me like one of your workers.' "

20The younger son got up and started back to his father. But when he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for him. He ran to his son and hugged and kissed him.

21The son said, "Father, I have sinned against God in heaven and against you. I am no longer good enough to be called your son."

22But his father said to the servants, "Hurry and bring the best clothes and put them on him. Give him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23Get the best calf and prepare it, so we can eat and celebrate. 24This son of mine was dead, but has now come back to life. He was lost and has now been found." And they began to celebrate. 25The older son had been out in the field. But when he came near the house, he heard the music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants over and asked, "What's going on here?"

27The servant answered, "Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father ordered us to kill the best calf." 28The older brother got so angry that he would not even go into the house.

His father came out and begged him to go in. 29But he said to his father, "For years I have worked for you like a slave and have always obeyed you. But you have never even given me a little goat, so that I could give a dinner for my friends. 30This other son of yours wasted your money on prostitutes. And now that he has come home, you ordered the best calf to be killed for a feast."

31His father replied, "My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we should be glad and celebrate! Your brother was dead, but he is now alive. He was lost and has now been found."


The Gospel, borrows heavily from the story that Jesus said. It lives out the meaning of the word Gospel. What we have on screen is “Good News.” The “Good News” of the ability to bring about change and love.

On a scale of 1-10, while far from perfect it was a very good touching movie with a great story. I’ll give the well deserving score of 7

—1. Overview (multimedia)
—2. Overview Basic (dial up speed)
—3. Reviews and Blogs
—4. Cast and Crew
—5. Photo Pages
—6. Trailers, Clips, DVDs, Books, Soundtrack
—7. Posters
—8. Production Notes (pdf)
—9. Spiritual Connections

2 Comments:

Blogger Chris Utley said...

"A" for effort, "C" for execution in the long run. Prodigal Son references aside, the film was a bit too wafer thin for me in it's conclusion.

5:08 PM

 
Blogger Reviews by Mike Furches said...

Hey Chris, round out that A and that C and you end up with a B. Sounds about like the review I gave, a B- or C+ depending on how you break it down. I agree that more could have been done with the story, but I was entertained and the web site is pretty cool because you can listen to about 4 of the movies songs in total.

7:52 PM

 

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