(Note: This Review may contain spoilers)
Lansing based CDI (Collective Development Inc.) “Wild Faith” is finding fast audience acceptance wherever it may play. Starting with a cast and crew premiere at Studio C in Okemos, “Wild Faith” then went to Celebration Cinema in Lansing and GR concurrently, before moving east along the I-96 corridor to Novi.
Set in a post Civil War, Michigan, this faith based film is the story of a decorated Civil War veteran who through a commitment given to a friend whose life was lost on the battlefield, assumes responsibility for the man’s wife and daughter. Despite the resistance to this relationship he experiences from the townsfolk, he remains stoically strong and resolute.
Shane Hagedorn portrays Emmett, a widower who understands “when God takes something away from you, he often gives something in return” and that people are essentially all the same, regardless of the color of their skin. Lauren LaStrada plays Haddie, the widow who enters and finds place in Emmett’s life, Xylia Jenkins appears as Grace, Haddie’s daughter, and young Joe Cipriano rounds out the family as Henry. Also in this family is Greg Mason as Uncle McKinney.
Emmett is a man slow to anger to a point, but beyond that point…When Emmett enters town on horse-drawn buckboard with Haddie and family, Emmett is confronted by Preacher Collins (Dean Tester) who questions Emmett’s commitment and finds that he steps over that point, Emmett slaps the preacher much to the shock of every one in the town’s street. When Emmett enters a barn, he becomes the target of rude remarks from a couple of the town’s men (Ian Griffen and David Gries), but only for so long before they are looking down the wrong end of Emmett’s barrel As this movie develops you come to realize that Emmett’s strength is rooted in his faith.
When Emmett has to leave the family for any number of reasons, mostly to hunt, young Henry (Joe Cipriano), is left in charge. Accepting his responsibilities, he persuades Uncle McKinney to teach him how to fire a gun. This is important later in the movie as Henry and Haddie are left alone in the cabin as a raucous happens outside. A quick acceptance of his responsibilities is but one of Henry’s traits. He demonstrates wisdom beyond his years; this wisdom is displayed most prominently when Henry and Grace (Xylia Jenkins) go fishing. Reflecting, Grace makes a comment about how people don’t like her, Henry says that it is because people are simply scared of her. He again talks of how people aren’t any different regardless of the color of their skin.
Uncle McKinney imparts to Emmett a dream that he had, a premonition of a fire breathing monster coming this way. When a circus train is forced to stop because of a fallen tree, a tiger escapes into the woods. The circus owner, Albena, (Christine Marie) enlists the help of local men to bring the tiger back alive. Eli and Cal (David Gries and Ian Griffen) realize that there is more opportunity in this stopped train than bringing the tiger back. They offer to sell Albena a young girl who can sing to become part of her treveling troupe and they conspire to kidnap Grace.
While this is happening, Emmet’s friends, Ben Lilly (DJ Perry) and scout Hester Thickett (Melissa Anschutz) drop by the cabin for a visit. When Henry shows up from fishing, and realizes that Grace is not in tow, Ben and Hester set off to look for her.
Written by DJ Perry, directed by Jesse Low , with cinematography by Jesse Aragon, “Wild Faith” was largely on set primarily at the Charlton Park Historical Village near Hastings, with a key scene filmed at Grand Ledge’s Fitzerald Park. The locomotive was part of the Little River Railroad, a heritage railroad located in Coldwater, Michigan, one of only four operating steam locomotives in Michigan, and 150 still working nationwide. The train runs to Quincy, Michigan and occasionally Hillsdale, Michigan.
The flashback scenes in “Wild Faith” used 68 Civil War re-enactors representing the 12th South Carolina (with 30 men), 15th Michigan and 102nd U.S. Colored Troops (which were split down the middle with participants). Of those 68 re-enactors, 44 cities were represented. Of those 38 cities from Michigan, 4 from Ohio and one from Indiana. The cannon team was an 8 person crew, and the cannon was called Goldie.
Wild Faith has a tremendous story line and is suitable for the whole family. The characters are very real and the presentation was very strong, from the town scenes to the Civil War depiction. This is a very powerful movie.
“Wild Faith” has been nominated for four different awards by the International Christian Film Festival, including “Best Film” with individual nominees awarded to Shane Hagedorn “Best Actor in a Feature Film, “Lauren LaStrada “Best Supporting Actress n a Feature Film” and Jesse Low for “Best Director for a Feature film.
Running with the tremendous theatrical traction it has experienced so far, it has been booked to play Goodrich Quality Theaters, Hastings, April 16 and 18, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, and Jackson, April 23 and 25