CDI's Hit Family-Film 'Wild Faith' Fills the Screen with 'Warrior Spirit'
And there are many reasons audiences are falling in love with the story (written by DJ Perry, who also Co-Stars as trapper Ben Lily). Not the least of which are the varying elements of survival and 'the human condition' that are as relative in today's world as they were in the rugged post-Civil War era.
War, greed, hatred, racism, prejudice, bigotry, religious zealotry, it's all there as 'Wild Faith' unfolds.
But the screen – through an eclectic cast of characters and majestic cinematography from Jesse Aragon – is also permeated with a sense of 'Warrior Spirit,' a term Native Americans understood as attributes providing both inner and outer dimensions to the overall human spirit that would otherwise leave us incomplete.
'Warrior Spirit' doesn't have too be identified with war. Rather, it's an intensity of life. One filled with energy and readiness to act when needed. It's determination to protect one's family, tribe, nation, world; it's fairness, honesty, loyalty, integrity, selflessness;
"In several scenes, for instance," said North Carolina-based actor Robert Bradley (William Hatcher), of Cherokee heritage, "You see white and black people, as well as an American Indian, sharing a meal, laughing, reminiscing. The way it should be. But evil is a great enemy, it can affect an entire town, village or country when people listen to the words of one man with a vendetta."
In 'Wild Faith,' which is nominated for four awards at the world's largest Christian film Festival, The International Christian Film Festival in Orlando (Best Picture, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress and Best Director for Jesse Low), 'the man with a vendetta' is a town leader, 'Preacher Collins,' played by actor Dean Teaster.
"It was interesting to work on a film like Wild Faith, which reveals that the more things change, the more they stay the same," said Mr. Teaster "Some of my ancestors," added the NC native, "Were Eastern Band of Cherokee and were subjected to 'The Trail of Tears,' where families were ripped apart. Much like Jewish people in The Holocaust and African-Americans during enslavement. The role of Preacher Collins was challenging for me, mostly because he goes against everything I stand for. But these stories need to be told in order that we don't repeat ugly history."
"The story was spiritual for me," said Austin 'Two Feathers,' of Saponi blood, the Native American tribe indigenous to Virginia and Tennessee.
"Wild Faith is a story of many layers," added Two Feathers, who ironically and like his fellow actor Mr. Bradley, play 'ne'r-do-wells. "But the constant in the film is its humanity. It speaks to truth, love and thought at its core. There's a path of righteousness for all human beings, if they choose it. And I think that's what's capturing audiences. It's simple truthfulness."
The diversity of 'Wild Faith' among its cast and crew of nearly 200 people is wide-ranging.
But for one CDI producer and actress, Melissa Anschutz, preparation to portray the half-white, half- Ojibwa fur trapper, 'Hester Thickett,' was not only a privilege, but a cultural learning experience.
"This wasn't a 'Dances with Wolves' situation," explained Ms. Anschutz, whose acting resume is as strong and diverse as Wild Faith's filmmakers. "Her father, a French Canadian tracker, took Hester's mother with him. Much like today's relocation of families for employment opportunities.
"Hester's father taught her how to survive in the wilds of Michigan, to make a living for herself," she added. "Her culture came from her mother. So much of the way Hester spoke, the small nuances to her presence, came from her mother. My dear friend and mentor, 'Two Feathers,' was invaluable in helping me develop this character, who'll remain in my heart forever. I hope the Ojibwa people are pleased with what they see in her. Strength, her world view and most of all, her loyalty."
'Wild Faith' continues its Michigan theatrical run, having screened to sell-out audiences at major chains in Lansing, Grand Rapids, suburban Detroit and Hastings (where the bulk of it was filmed). Stops next week will be in Battle Creek, Jackson, Kalamazoo and West Columbia, with more cities in the works.
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