Friday, March 23, 2012

The Undershepherd is Up to Parr

The Undershepherd is Up to Parr
March 22, 2012
By Raynard Jackson

Recently I attended a private screening of Russ Parr’s latest movie, “The Undersherpherd.”  I found the movie to be riveting and engaging.  The movie was independently written, produced, and directed by Parr.
Parr’s career has spanned from a stand-up comic, recording artist, top-rated, nationally-syndicated radio host heard weekdays by 3.2 million listeners in 25 cities across America, to independent filmmaker.
The Undershepherd is Parr’s 5th independently produced movie release.  The backdrop of the movie is set in the Black church.  It’s the tale of two ministers, LC (played by Isaiah Washington) and Roland (played by Lamman Rucker); they are best friends, brothers in Christ, ambitious, up and coming ministers who are paying their dues as humble servants in the ministry. They have each other’s backs as they work their way through the ranks of the First Baptist Church.
Serving under the leadership of Dr. Ezekial Canon (played by Bill Cobbs), the church’s well respected yet up in age pastor, LC and Roland both have dreams of one day becoming the eighty-year-old’s successor. The feeble Dr. Canon stubbornly refuses to step-down, forcing the two young ministers to make pivotal decisions about their futures in the ministry--decisions that will ultimately fray the fabric of their deeply woven friendship.
You will witness the ascension of evil through LC’s eyes as politics, kickbacks, adultery and cult-like practices become the culture under his leadership. You will also witness Roland’s struggle to create an honest church and pious ministry, which ultimately drives LC further away, at a time when Roland needs him most. You will witness the impact their decisions have on the lives of the other church leaders, the congregation and the community.  To view the movie trailer, go to:  (http://youtu.be/SGK9-pYbTt8).
Though the movie’s backdrop is the Black church, it is not an indictment of the Black church.  Let me repeat, it is not an indictment of the Black church; but rather an indictment on human frailty.  The church and religion are not bad things, but anytime you introduce humans into the equation, bad things can happen.
One of my comments to Parr about the movie was his portrayal of women.  It’s been a long time since I have seen strong Black women, but yet emotionally vulnerable, portrayed in a movie.  
Malinda Williams plays Cassandra Case, LC’s wife (played by Isaiah Washington).  She was determined to do anything to keep her man and keep her marriage together.  William’s character forces us to deal with issues that most would much rather pretend didn’t exist, especially in the Black community.
Robinne Lee plays Shirley, the wife of Roland (played by Lammond Rucker).  She represents what I call the “old school, traditional Black woman.”  She clearly will do anything to be supportive of her husband, even if it means deferring her own dreams because her dreams are inextricably wrapped up in her being the most loving, supportive wife she can be.  Her sweetness and strength softly comes through the camera.  It is undeniable that the camera loves her!
Isaiah Washington’s portrayal of LC is absolutely riveting.  Growing up in the Baptist church and graduating from Oral Roberts University, I could definitely relate to this movie in a very personal way.  In both institutions I was able to have an upclose and personal view of the personalities involved in the church.
Washington’s character reminds me of Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Alonzo Harris in the hit film, “Training Day.”  Again, both movies tell more about human nature than the two institutions they portray (the church and the police).
Roland is LC’s best friend.  He leaves First Baptist Church to start his own church only to realize that there is more to building a church than having a vision—afterall, it’s a business.
Russ Parr takes a common experience, going to church, and weaves it into a series of complex stories, while taking you on a mentally exhausting roller coaster ride that will make you laugh, cry, and smile; sometimes simultaneously.
Most Hollywood movies are so predictable—beginning, middle, and end.  They like endings that make the audience feel good. 
But, Parr refuses to use Hollywood formulas for his movies.  The Undershepherd does just the opposite—it makes you think and leaves you to make up your own conclusions about the movie. 
This is why the upcoming screening is going to be special.  The screening will be this Tuesday, March 27 at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD.  After the screening, there will be a Q & A with Parr and several of the cast members.
If you know any people in the DC area, please encourage them to see this fine movie.  They can find out more details at:  (https://www.eventbrite.com/event/1810751005?ref=ebtnebtckt).
While Parr is pursuing a distribution deal, let’s help him create some buzz about this film so we can hopefully see this movie in theatres across the country. 
Let’s help Russ prove to Hollywood that his movies are truly up to par!


Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm.  He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com), Freedom’s Journal Magazine (www.freedomsjournal.net), and U.S. Africa Magazine (www.usafricaonline.com).

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