The made-in-Memphis film “Free in Deed” won the Best Film prize in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival.
“Variety” reported today that: “U.S. director Jake Mahaffy’s ‘Free In Deed,’ set in the world of storefront churches in Memphis, Tennessee, took the top prize in the Horizons section. Jonathan Demme headed the jury of that section, which is dedicated to fresher, more cutting edge fare.” Read the story here.
The independent film stars British actor David Harewood (“Homeland”) and Los Angeles-based Edwina Findley (“The Wire,” “Treme”), with the rest of the cast and much of the crew from Memphis. The film is a client project of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.
Director/writer Jake Mahaffy has been working for years to bring the project to life. It was originally going to be shot in Detroit, but producer Mike Ryan convinced Mahaffy to shoot in Memphis. Other producers are Michael Bowes and Brent Stiefel. Memphians Ryan Watt, Nicki Newberger and Adam Hohenberg are associate producers.
Most of the jobs in the film’s production went to local people. There were about 20 in the crew, including Morgan Jon Fox (unit production manager and second assistant director), Gloria Belz (hair/makeup) and Sarah Fleming (first assistant director). Among the 51 locals with speaking roles are RaJay Chandler, Preston Shannon, Libra Mitchell, Helen Bowman, Phil Darius Wallace, Lindsey Roberts, Billie Worley, Robert Saba, Candace Clough McGowen, Jan Falk, Alex Coker, Geoff Falk, Porsha Ferguson and Jon W. Sparks.
A strongly positive review by Jessica Kiang for The Playlist concluded:
"This small, slow-paced film, deeply upsetting and narrow in scope, is a hard watch. In refusing to offer any easy answers, and in running precisely counter to the sickly angels-among-us narratives of the current, growing faith-based filmmaking movement, it's an even harder sell. But Mahaffy's uncompromising approach, and the quality of its performances, make it a rare and valuable testament: to the terrible danger of believing in miracles, and to the cruelty of a world that might make such belief necessary."
Pictured: Producer Mike Ryan