HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Educational Media Reviews Online | HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ★★★ 1/2 - Video Librarian | "Engrossing and rich" - Film ThreatAfrican American Studies • Religious Studies • Anthropology • Sociology • Civil Rights
Date of Completion: 2017 | Run Time: 94 minutes | Language: English | Captions: Yes | Includes: Transcript | Director: Lenny Feinberg | Producers: Lenny Feinberg & Nancy Cutler | Co-Producer: Claire Chandler
This is the untold story of the remarkable civil rights pioneer Father Divine – who had over a million followers worldwide and is considered the link between Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King – but is neglected by historians because he claimed that he was God incarnate.
Father Divine was born in poverty, the son of emancipated slaves, and went on to become one of America's most controversial religious leaders. Father Divine's movement was dedicated to integration and communal living and was an innovator in desegregating neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and the ballot box in the 1930s and '40s, through his radical program of empowerment. He commanded hundreds of properties and businesses, all funded by the work of his thousands of followers. At the same time, he preached that he himself was an incarnation of God and that by following his rules of purity and celibacy, his followers could live forever in “heaven on earth.” But scandal, suspicion, and racism lead to clashes with the law for him and his movement. Though he was once a celebrity and was decades ahead of his time fighting for civil rights, he has largely been written out of history because of the audacity of his religious claims, and doubt about his motives.
Today, Father’s few remaining followers live as a communal family on a magnificent estate outside Philadelphia. As time and mortality confront the followers, they struggle to preserve Father’s legacy. Through unprecedented access to this unique and reclusive community, the film explores the line between faith and fanaticism, between a religion and a cult. Father's revolutionary ideas on race and identity still resonate today.
Highly Recommended (Educational Media Reviews Online - EMRO) | Alexander Rolfe, Technical Services Librarian, George Fox University
"A fascinating and thorough look at the International Peace Mission and its leader Father Divine."
★★★ 1/2 Highly Recommended (Video Librarian) | P. Hall
"Feinberg wisely refrains from passing judgment on the fanatic frenzy that his subject inspired [...] [O]verall this is a fascinating tribute to an iconoclastic figure most often overlooked in civil rights history lessons. Highly recommended."
Huffington Post | Princess-India Alexander
"The documentary, in its examination of the mission’s history, follows the history of a man and mission who fought against segregation, fed and empowered the poor and believed that God was here on Earth. Through this film the movement’s impact is tangible."
Film Threat | Joshua Speiser
"On so many levels, this is an engrossing and rich film that sheds light on a unique and little known historic American figure. But, it is also about race, community, faith, and our need as humans to be part of something larger than ourselves. Superbly directed, paced, and scripted, with a master integration of contemporary interviews and archival footage, this is a film that stays with the viewer long after the credits have ended. It demands to be seen."
Aleteia | Elizabeth Scalia
"The documentary is at once skeptical and respectful, troubled, and affectionate. Feinberg is not putting these people on display for anyone’s mockery or amusement. His film is the study of a man who preached peace to people who wanted that message more than any other, and of the people who still proclaim it and live quiet, celibate lives of duty, directed toward the god in whom they have believed. In the process Feinberg manages to cast reasonable doubt on some of the ways and means of the movement while also helping the viewer understand how and why Father Divine won the love and loyalty of these people."
Cleveland | John Petkovic
"Over 94 minutes, the fascinating documentary uses archival footage and interviews with followers to craft a layered, complex portrait of Father Divine - the spiritual leader who led his International Peace Mission and transformed what was once a small African-American church into a multinational, multiracial movement."
Official Selection | March on Washington Film Festival
Official Selection | Napa Valley Film Festival
Official Selection | Dances with Films
Official Selection | Sidewalk Film Festival
Official Selection | DOC NYC
Official Selection | St. Louis International Film Festival
Official Selection | New Orleans Film Festival
Official Selection | Cleveland International Film Festival
Official Selection | RiverRun International Film Festival
Official Selection | Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection | Charlotte Black Film Festival
Official Selection | Maryland Film Festival
Official Selection | San Francisco Black Film Festival
Official Selection | Salem Film Fest
Official Selection | Sarasota Film Festival
March on Washington at the Washington National Cathedral
Dances with Films
REQUEST A GOOD TALK WITH LENNY FEINBERG
Director of FATHER'S KINGDOM
Lenny Feinberg began his documentary career by producing the acclaimed documentary THE ART OF THE STEAL which premiered at Toronto International Film Festival, and then went on to play at the New York Film Festival, Palm Springs and others ultimately being acquired by IFC Films. THE ART OF THE STEAL tells the story of Dr. Albert Barnes and the controversy surrounding his multi-billion dollar art collection, which ultimately ended up in Philadelphia. Feinberg’s next film was BLACK AND WHITE AND DEAD ALL OVER directed by Chris Foster which follows investigative reporters from Philadelphia newspapers as their jobs hang in the balance. It played on WNET in NYC and premiered at the Newseum in Washington D.C. For his directorial debut, FATHER’S KINGDOM, which has screened at DocNYC, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, San Francisco Black Film Festival, Charlotte Black Film Festival, among many others. Lenny Feinberg was able to gain unprecedented access to the reclusive last remaining followers of the little known American civil rights pioneer Father Divine who is considered the link between Marcus Garvey and Martin Luther King. Father Divine at one time had over a million followers throughout the world but has been disregarded because he claimed that he was God incarnate. Lenny discovered and initiated each of these films through his unique access and perspective on Pennsylvania stories.