Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Michael W. Smith movie explores racial themes, redemption; opens Friday

The Second Chance MovieThe movie The Second Chance, filmed in Nashville and starring Michael W. Smith and jeff obafemi carr, will premiere nationwide this Friday, February 17. The story features the interplay between an affluent suburban evangelical church and an inner-city mission church.

Nashville's Yuri Cunza appears in a supporting role as a Hispanic character in one of the movie's subplots. According to screenwriter Chip Arnold, Cunza's "Javier" role as "was specifically written as a Hispanic character because we wanted the internal life of The Second Chance Community Church to represent as much as possible a diversity of ethnic backgrounds. But on a more personal and human level, beyond the individual cultural heritiage that we all take pride in, we wanted to show that the character of 'Javier' and his difficult circumstances in the story was worth exploring as a vital subplot. We wanted to show the audience that the character of 'Ethan,' a character outside 'Javier's' community, saw value in another human being and was willing to take a risk on him. Whether they knew it or not every character in the movie was searching for a 'second chance.' Many of them got it. A few didn't, but it is something we are all searching is something our faith provides for us. I hope and believe that the character of 'Javier' and his plight will resonate with the audience that goes beyond a specific ethnic culture. I hope it touches every heart because of our mutual humanity."

A more complete description of the movie follows in this press release:

Michael W. Smith’s first starring film role to hit theaters Feb 2006.

Multi-Platinum and Grammy and Dove Award-winning artist, Michael W. Smith, is set to hit the big screen February 17, 2006 with his first leading role in a motion picture. The Second Chance tells the story of a relationship between two pastors, Ethan Jenkins (Smith) who is from a successful upper-middle-class suburban church and the other, Jake Sanders (introducing jeff obafemi carr), who heads up an inner-city mission church. Their relationship is one that exemplifies many of the differences between various facets of the Church body, and the film brings out the great need for compassion, communication, forgiveness, and understanding.

The Second Chance is directed by acclaimed filmmaker/writer/producer/recording artist Steve Taylor, from an original screenplay by Taylor, actor/writer Chip Arnold and filmmaker/photographer Ben Pearson. It’s a story about stepping out of your comfort zone to bring comfort to the needy and experiencing relationship through brokenness, forgiveness and authenticity.

“This movie was four years in the making—it has been a great experience,” says Smith. “It’s a great story and I think it’s going to connect with people. The great thing is you’ve got a black man and a white man, and you see them come together because of various circumstances. It’s a story about redemption and transformation. At first Ethan is willing to serve God as long as it's safe. Then he realizes there's nothing safe about serving God.”

“This was my first feature film,” says director Steve Taylor, who is the son of a pastor. “Above all, I wanted it to be authentic. Christians can come off as cartoon-like in most media portrayals.” One exception, he believes: Robert Duvall's Academy Award-nominated performance as a Texas preacher in the 1997 drama, “The Apostle.” “He got it right,” says Taylor.

Smith wanted to get it right, as well, working with an acting coach for over six months before filming began. During the production, the filmmakers strove for authenticity in every aspect of the production. The movie was made with local money, local film professionals and an almost entirely Nashville cast; two actors came from Georgia, but none from New York or L.A. Rather than casting actors in their roles, the production brought in actual homeless people from the nearby rescue mission. Residents from the inner city neighborhoods the film shot in—areas of Nashville many on the set confessed they had never seen—stood in as extras. jeff carr and Jonathan Thomas, who plays youth pastor Tony, are involved in real-life ministry with inner city youth.

In the film, these two passionate pastors worship God from the same book—but that’s about where their similarities end. White and well-to-do, Ethan is comfortable in his music ministry at his media-savvy suburban mega-church, The Rock; Jake is a street smart African-American who ministers to gang members, teen mothers, and drug addicts of the urban Second Chance Church.

Both churches were founded by Ethan’s father, Jeremiah Jenkins (J. Don Ferguson). He founded Second Chance Church amid the turbulence of the civil rights demonstrations in the 1960s. He then moved from the inner city to the suburbs where he founded The Rock, where the act of service often takes the form of large donations to the collection plate. He continues to travel the world “planting churches,” but he’s lost sight of the place where his journey as a pastor began.

Having recently left his wayward lifestyle as a celebrated musician on the West Coast, Ethan is currently serving as associate pastor at The Rock. He’s busy, affluent, and caught up in the big business of a big church, where his ministry is more about Sunday simulcasts than service to others. Still, the occasional situation arises that reveals a glimpse of Ethan’s former life. After having had enough of Ethan’s rocking the boat, the church board decides he needs to take a little sabbatical away from The Rock…and assign him to begin helping out at Second Chance.

Thrown together with Jake in Second Chance’s tough neighborhood and forced to work side by side with him, Ethan discovers there is no boundary between the streets and the sanctuary. A committed servant to his community, Jake works hard to keep his church together, and he resents the arrival of Ethan with his shiny BMW and his cash-can-solve-anything attitude. Sparks fly from day one when Jake takes Ethan on a tour of the ’hood. Jake resented Jeremiah’s decision to move to the suburbs, and now he resents being saddled with his son.

Tensions mount when word leaks out that the future of Second Chance is potentially in jeopardy. Ethan and Jake are then faced with the opportunity to let the faith they share overcome the prejudices that divide them, giving themselves and the struggling urban church a second chance.

The Second Chance, which recently won "Best Feature" at the WYSIWYG Film Festival in San Francisco, will be released by Sony Pictures on February 17, 2006 in over 30 major markets around the country.

Disclosure: the ads for The Second Chance movie that appear on Hispanic Nashville Notebook are not paid placements.

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