“We all get lost sometimes. What’s important is what we do with our life when we find our way back.”
See PAUL’S PROMISE in theaters starting October 21st!
Set at the height of the 1960s Civil Rights movement, PAUL’S PROMISE is the inspiring true story of one man’s journey toward hope and healing during a troubled time in our nation’s history. Paul Holderfield’s story is told with the use of flashbacks, showing how his childhood experiences influenced his adult years. His mom never gave up on him and he finally turned his life around, choosing to serve God and stand up to injustice. The former boxer-turned-firefighter and atheist-turned-Christian went on to pastor one of the first racially integrated churches in the American South. The ministry that he set in motion continues to make a huge impact on the community to this day.
PAUL’S PROMISE features an amazing lineup including:
- Ryan O’Quinn
- Linda Purl
- Shari Rigby
- Nancy Stafford
- Josef Cannon
- Dean Cain
The movie was written by Vitya Stevens, directed by Matthew Reithmayr, and produced by Ryan O’Quinn, Michael Davis, Heather O’Quinn, and Taylor Cole.
The events depicted in PAUL’S PROMISE take place in North Little Rock, Arkansas, although as soon as I started watching the movie I noticed that the background scenery looks like the Southwest, not the Southeast! Sure enough, I see that it was filmed in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico! Most viewers probably won’t even notice, but I live near there so I sure did, LOL.
So, I don’t quite understand the reasoning of the location scout, but it didn’t affect the overall feel of the movie. The actors’ accents and colloquialisms are definitely Southern! More importantly, the set dressers did a great job giving everything an authentic 1960s vibe, from vehicles and hairstyles to clothing and interior design. Even though the movie is set in the past, it contains a timely message about racism and bigotry. How can people be so prejudiced and hateful toward others??? It boggles my mind.
That being said, I’m puzzled why all the movie taglines say Paul Holderfield was a “bigoted firefighter-turned-pastor” and a “racist firefighter-turned-pastor.” Assuming this story is truly based on his life, he’s not the one who was racist. As a child his best friend was black! But it was the peer pressure of those around him, specifically his bigoted father and friends, that made him keep it a secret – so he couldn’t let anyone know that he was hanging out with a black boy and they eventually drifted apart. Paul was obviously torn, but even though he was cowardly, he wasn’t actually racist. In the end, he finally steps out of his comfort zone and decides to fight against racial injustice. That other firefighter, though (Jake I think is his name?), is such an infuriating character, I can’t stand him! What is wrong with people to be so mean like that???
By the way, I like how the title of this movie, PAUL’S PROMISE, has a double meaning. First of all, Paul made a promise to his mother. (Admittedly he said it just to make her feel better with no intention of following through, but then he changes his mind.) Secondly, Paul’s mother wisely knew that her son showed promise in that he had a lot of untapped potential and God had plans for him. Her perseverance prevailed in the end when he finally chooses to start serving God. It’s also an interesting coincidence that Paul was the name of the apostle formerly named Saul who had a similar change of heart from anti-Christian to Christian upon having a personal encounter with Jesus.
Paul Holderfield went on to found one of the first racially integrated churches in the south – the Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene – along with the soup kitchen / food pantry called Feeding and Loving All Men Equally (F.L.A.M.E.). However, except for an epilogue at the end, the movie didn’t really go into that part which surprised me. Following Paul’s conversion, I would have loved to see what happened next in his life – like how as a changed man he got along with his racist buddies on the fire crew. Talk about a hostile work environment! The filmmakers could have added another half hour to the 94-minute movie, but then again it would probably end up being another whole movie’s worth. They need to make a sequel!
Behind the Scenes
The release of PAUL’S PROMISE comes on the 50th anniversary of Paul Holderfield’s real-life ministry. Here’s a brief history of Friendly Chapel from the church’s website:
Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene had its beginning long before it became today’s Friendly Chapel and Friendly Chapel F.L.A.M.E. (Feeding, Loving, All Men Equally). When Paul Holderfield, Sr. (Bro. Paul, Sr.) became a Christian, he began feeding a group of underprivileged youth at the NLR Boy’s Club, which at that time was the old Fourth Street Jr. High, where he worked part-time. Later the church moved to an abandoned school building, where a mission was started with 16 – 20 children who lived in Eastgate Housing Project.
The Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene was established in 1972 in a small, framed building that needed renovation. A few years later, Bro. Paul, Sr. felt “a call” to the ministry. He left the NLR Fire Department and became pastor of the church he started as a layman. The church and related facilities are located in what was a high-crime area near the Arkansas River in North Little Rock. With complete respect and support from the neighborhood, vandalism has been virtually nonexistent. Friendly Chapel is widely known for combating and overcoming prejudice.
It’s always nice when actors get immersed in their characters and support the message behind the movie. I was happy to see a video posted on the church’s Facebook page, of the cast and crew of PAUL’S PROMISE serving meals with the Holderfield family at Friendly Chapel.
Oh, and here’s a scene you will want to watch for in the movie! I wondered why some random guy walking down the hospital hallway said Hi to the Paul Holderfield character as they passed by each other. Then I read that Paul Holderfield, Jr., who is currently the senior pastor at Friendly Chapel Church of the Nazarene, has a cameo in the film. He’s the one who walks past the actor portraying his own father. That’s pretty cool!
PAUL’S PROMISE is a great movie with a strong Christian worldview and stellar performances by all of the actors. The mother’s enduring faith and love for her son are truly inspiring. This historical drama is appropriate for adults who are familiar with the subject matter, perhaps having grown up in that time period, and also for families with older teens. PAUL’S PROMISE is rated PG for thematic material—including domestic violence (mostly yelling and not much is actually shown, but the image of the dad holding a belt may be triggering to some people) and other violence (rocks thrown at a black boy, arson attacks on black people’s homes), plus drinking and smoking. No foul language, but a lot of historic racial prejudice on full display. It’s hard to fathom the mindset of people who are so hateful toward others, but this movie shows how wrong it is. Never feel obligated to go along with the prevailing groupthink when you know deep down that what they’re doing isn’t right. You’d think after all these years, people would have learned – but it seems like the more things change, the more they stay the same.
PAUL’S PROMISE is showing in select theaters nationwide starting 10/21/2022! Buy your tickets TODAY at PaulsPromiseMovie.com!
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Many thanks to Damascus Road Productions for providing a sample of the product for this review. Opinions are 100% my own.