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Jakes' R-rated 'Woman, Thou Art Loosed' tackles sexual abuse

BOBBY ROSS JR. Sep. 24, 2004

Updated: Aug. 1, 2016 7:06 a.m. Source: My Plain View

Photo Source: Unsplash, Priscilla Du Preez

AP Religion Writer

Bishop T.D. Jakes isn't easily intimidated. He is, after all, a best-selling author of 29 books, a Grammy-winning gospel singer and a nationally renowned preacher about whom a Time magazine cover story asked in 2001: "Is This Man The Next Billy Graham?" Yet here he is, the 6-foot-2, 260-pound pastor with the famously recognizable shaved head and salt-and-pepper goatee, standing in his church's empty 8,000-seat seat sanctuary and talking about the intimidating nature of his latest role _ that of a movie actor. "I won't give up my day job," jokes Jakes, the 47-year-old founding minister of The Potter's House, a 30,000-member megachurch in Dallas. Lately, Jakes has kept mighty busy with both jobs, balancing his pulpit duties with advance screenings across the country to promote his new movie, "Woman, Thou Art Loosed." "It's really difficult," he says, "because by it being an independent film, so much of the groundswell is dependent on us going out and working it up. That, plus all the duties I have, has got me stretched pretty thin right now." Asked how well he expects the screen adaptation of his book and play about sexual abuse to do at the box office, Jakes says he doesn't know. "I'm not an expert with movies, and ignorance is bliss," says Jakes, who is scheduled to appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Oct. 1, the day the film opens, to discuss his fight against child molestation.

The film, a collaboration between Hollywood producer Reuben Cannon and Jakes' for-profit T.D. Jakes Enterprises, stars Kimberly Elise as Michelle Jordan, a victim of childhood abuse who becomes a criminal and winds up on Death Row. The fictional story intersperses graphic scenes of sexual abuse, drug use and domestic violence with Jakes preaching a Los Angeles revival and ministering to the condemned prisoner. Already, it has drawn comparisons to Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" because of its R rating and the way Jakes has marketed it _ showing it to dozens of pastors and encouraging churches to rent out theaters. "I'm not offended by that comparison at all, and I think it is R-rated for similar reasons," says Jakes, although he's quick to point out his low-budget film lacked Gibson's deep pockets. "Many places that I've gone and talked about it, they said it was R for real. We did keep it real." Jakes' film clearly and powerfully demonstrates the reality of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence, says Dr. Diane Langberg, executive board chairwoman for the American Association of Christian Counselors. "I think that human beings, certainly the church at large, just sort of instinctively want to minimize the reality of such things," says Langberg, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia. "They're ugly, they're frightening, and we don't want to believe such things go in homes and in families. I think we have to be startled out of apathy." Jakes describes Jordan, the main character, as a composite of the many abuse victims he has counseled over 28 years. In his view, the film offers not just a harsh dose of reality but a healthy supply of hope. "It's not just divine forgiveness, which is a part of the message," Jakes says. "But also, it deals with the struggle that we have to forgive people who have done things to us and how you're never really free until you forgive people who have mishandled you." While "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" features poor, black characters, the problem of sexual abuse transcends all socio-economic and racial boundaries, Jakes says. It's important to him, he says, that the film reach a wide, diverse audience _ not just church people. "Because no matter how big our churches are, there's a broader part of the world that goes on outside these doors," he says. It's unlikely, though, that Jakes' film can create the kind of secular buzz generated by Gibson's "Passion," which combined a Hollywood superstar taking on a religious cause with widespread public attention on questions of anti-Semitism. "This is a different phenomenon," says William Blizek, editor of the Journal of Religion and Film at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. "It may be a very good and important movie. But generally speaking, people are not likely to go to movies that they find depressing." Jakes, who has national shows on Trinity Broadcasting Network and Black Entertainment Television, says his film has "a range of emotions in it _ from being sometimes funny to sometimes very, very serious." He kidded his co-star about leaving his set to shoot scenes with Denzel Washington for "The Manchurian Candidate," but he says the roles speak to Elise's talent and versatility. "To get to work with her was amazing because the woman can manifest emotions at will, go into character in a second," Jakes says. "You know, I was a little intimidated. But I had a great time doing it." On the Net: "Woman, Thou Art Loosed: The Movie": Bobby Ross Jr. has covered religion since 1999.


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