By Judy Shields
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 09/13/2022 – “This is a short story by James Lee Burke that I fist read in 2010 and sometime you read something and it speaks to you in a way you don’t necessarily know how just yet. I spent a few years thinking it would be a great short film and made that short film called “Winter Light.” A few years later, the story came back to me and Shaye and I talked about who they could take that story and just do it in a different way and access different themes. Director/Co-Writer Julian Higgins told the audience about his film “God’s Country“.
Here is the official trailer:
They had a Q&A after the screening with Director/Co-Writer Julian Higgins, Co-Writer Shaye Ogbonna and Producer Amanda Marshall at the Autry Museum.
Co-Writer Shaye Ogbonna told the audience that he and Julian talked about their activism and had an idea of revisiting the idea of Julian’s short and changing the older white man to a black man in the same situation and then they came up with changing the character to a middle-aged black woman. That really opened it up for Shaye and he talked about it being a western and being about strong women in his life.
They were asked how this movie is considered a western. Shaye said it was a modern western and he explained what a modern western is. “Big theme of the character’s relationship to the land, which is what we see in relationship in westerns. Violence, masculinity, frontier disputes and you definitely feel that in this film, so for me those are the elements that make this film a western, although it takes place in modern time. Westerns are America’s mythology, the idea of manifest destiny, American exceptionalism, all those wrapped up in a western genre and I feel like those were the themes we were exploring.”
Producer Amanda Marshall told the audience what she loved about the movie. “When I first read it, there were various layers to it and you can view it through race or through gender, and whatever you bring to the table you have a different perspective to how you are viewing it.” She went on to say that they started shooting it in February 2020 and then they were shut down due to the pandemic and it took them a year to get back and finish the film. There were issued when they got back together to start filming but they made it happen and you will be glad they did.
Julian told us that looking at the poster, which was up on the stage, that Thandiwe Newton, who came on in January 2020 when they locked her in, and when a film gets shut down for any reason it is very hard to start it up again and one of the main reasons is, people’s schedules, and the actor, who you may not be able to get back, and that’s it. But she was so committed to the project from when she first read it, that she expressed to him that she identified what they were trying to do with the character and she wanted to be the one to tell the story. She stuck around and they were in constant communication the whole year that they were down. She made another movie during that time, but she came back to finish the film. Everyone was taking care of themselves now and something amazing that all the people came back and everyone took care of themselves and no one got Covid and that was amazing.
It was great to hear what they all said about coming back to film after being off for that year.
Shaye Ogbonna told the audience that we could now download James Lee Burke’s “Winter Light” on his website. Click here for that.
The opening scene of the film will catch your attention, it’s a slide show, that’s all I will say for now. Go see it to see what I am referring to.
When a college professor in the remote mountains of the American West confronts two hunters she catches trespassing on her property, she’s drawn into an escalating battle of wills with catastrophic consequences. Based on the short story “Winter Light” by James Lee Burke.
It was an honor to be invited to see the screening of this amazing film that will be coming to theaters on September 16th.
“God’s Country held my interest with intrigue suspense. There were scenes that kept one wondering how they related in the movie. The main character seemed fearless. Overall a must see movie.” Susana Willie told The Hollywood Times after seeing the movie with me.
I totally agree with all Susana said. A movie worth the price of admission and one that will keep you focused on the screen and definitely away from your popcorn!
Truly a Must See movie about a woman, her past, her dog and her land.