Gospel Hill (2008) Poster


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Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut is a well-intentioned, but ultimately simplistic look at racial relations
Benedict_Cumberbatch30 March 2009
"Gospel Hill", Giancarlo Esposito's directorial debut, was presented at the 12th Green Mountain Film Festival, after a modest DVD release (which seems to be a popular way to distribute independent films that are still running the festivals circuit without getting the exposure they deserve).

Shot in 19 days with a very limited budget in South Carolina, it's a slow paced story of racial tension and redemption in a small town. Forty years ago, Paul Malcolm (an uncredited Samuel L. Jackson), a black civil rights activist, was murdered, and since then his son John (Danny Glover) has withdrawn from the community. The town's ex-sheriff (Tom Bower), abandoned the investigation on Paul's murder, creating a long term tension between blacks and whites. A golf course development, led by Dr. Palmer (Esposito himself), is about to force the residents of the black neighborhood of Gospel Hill out of their homes, which only makes the racial tension get worse.

As someone who worked with Spike Lee so many times, it's interesting how Esposito's approach to racial relations is completely different from Lee's explosive visual and moral style. Esposito takes his time to introduce the characters, tell the story, being almost contemplative, and seeks redemption for its conclusion. That's not necessarily a bad thing, actually it's refreshing. However, his characters are poorly written, the script is too simplistic, and although Danny Glover and Tom Bower (which slightly resembles Peter Boyle's character in "Monster's Ball") have good moments, the ensemble acting is underwhelming (Angela Bassett, usually a great actress, has had better times, and Esposito, a great actor himself, shows that directing yourself doesn't always work). Listening to him speak about this project leaves no doubt that he had good intentions and a passion for it. Nonetheless, I couldn't help but feeling like I was watching a run of the mill TV movie made thousands of times before. Good intentions alone don't make a good film, but at least he tried to tell a story, which is always something to be praised. Maybe in his next attempt, he will get a better result. 4.5/10.
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Loved this movie
nylaphx22 March 2009
Long been a fan of Giancarlo Esposito and it was great to meet and talk with him at the Sedona Film Festival where this film was shown. It is a sweet story full of redemption for many characters, not a shoot em up, car chase movie so maybe it is not enough for many viewers.

It is a very good film and I would highly recommend it to all. The acting is excellent and the direction sharp. It's a great reminder of how some of the more difficult times in this country have contributed to the world we live in today. Of how as humans we control our ability to forgive and forget or not.

My only real criticism is about Julie Stiles character Rosie, I kept waiting for her the truth of her interest in the story to be revealed it just didn't quite work for me.

But all in all I would say it was a great first directorial effort and I look forward to his next project.
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blankasky10 August 2009
I just had the pleasure of seeing this film at the Albuquerque Film Festival and have to say that I was severely impressed. I have not been moved by a film in this way for quite some time. The move this movie made away from the stereotypical negativity that can blanket this genre was a breath of fresh air. When you consider the short period of time taken to shoot this film(19 days)it becomes that much more of a wonder. Being that this is Giancarlo's first project as Director, I greatly look forward to his next. I also had the pleasure of hearing him speak about his vision for this movie at the festival after the viewing and I have to say that his intentions ring clear. I am a better person for having seen it.
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Its all there except the script
dbborroughs14 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Giancarlo Esposito directs and co stars in the story of a town with racial strife in its past thanks to the killing of a civil rights leader decades before. As the ghosts of the past are woken up and a new corporate threat comes to town the people in the town are forced to make some choices. Well made and well acted tale wants to hit one out of the box in examinations of race and community, but is mired with a script that never completely shakes off its well worn cloak. We've been here before and while much of the film works, it still relies on cliché (there is something about Julia Stiles character that just doesn't ring true). I think perhaps the film is trying to do too much, there are a good number of characters and all are given a certain amount of time. I liked it, but I didn't love it. Of course the DVD cover made it look like a thriller or mystery, which while it has elements isn't what it really is.
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Some great American Names...
tim-764-29185616 May 2012
When I noticed an unknown drama, deep within the TV listings of Sky Movies, Gospel Hill cropped up - further investigation showed a sterling array of well known actors: Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Samuel L Jackson and Julia Styles. What film lover would NOT want to check this one out?

Radio Times gave it a low rating and almost no review, IMDb's score barely scraped above 5/10. What was wrong with this movie?

On viewing, it is a quiet, solid and undramatic movie. Many could describe it as boring; it runs more akin to a decent, rather worthy TV movie, touching on issues involving a small town community in the Deep South. The issues are quietly relevant and handled suitably. The acting, by all concerned is sterling but none excel and none take their roles above those of ordinary people, which is probably a good thing but that could be why it might be seen as lacklustre and underwhelming. I thought that Julia Styles, who I've not always enjoyed, as the young schoolteacher particularly poignant and believable.

Apparently, it was shot in just 19 days on a shoestring budget, by debut director Giancarlo Esposito. The laid-back bluesy soundtrack was both fitting and enjoyable.

I agree with the other reviewer about the ending. It may have been a movie that had complex topics that couldn't be resolved, but this was just shut-off. Like a novel that had its last chapter missing. This is probably why I'm only awarding 6/10 instead 7/10.

Why it seems to be only available as a region 1, effectively barring UK & European buyers is a puzzle. It certainly won't be in anyone's top 10, or necessarily remembered even but its cast list and the fact that it's OK, bordering on good, makes it even more curious. Having said that, I wouldn't be one who'd buy the DVD, most probably.
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Give This Director a Miniseries
alonzoiii-127 December 2010
The town of Julia SC is approaching the 40th anniversary of the assassination of its leading civil rights figure, just as it is contemplating tearing down GOSPEL HILL -- its historic black district -- for a golf course. Can the many characters of this drama find redemption in racial reconciliation, or will it ignore its history for the price of a few jobs from a rapacious developer?

This fascinating drama, which works harder than any recent movie I have seen at capturing the rhythms of the current-day small-town South, deserved a bigger audience than it is getting on DVD and cable. However, the movie does not entirely succeed, simply because it is trying to depict a fairly complicated community in two hours, and to get its mission done, it reaches far too often for handy clichés. (You know the ones -- outside corporations are by definition super-evil, every white man is at least a little bit racist, and there is a rich cabal outside the main action of the drama who really control everything.) The most successful dramas in recent years dealing with smaller communities (Twin Peaks, Friday Night Lights) have been TV shows which have more time to develop characters and a sense of community. This movie, which has too many major characters to develop, has the right idea in its pacing, and its allowance in all but one of its main characters some shades of gray. But it can't quite get to a believable conclusion of redemption, because the movie running time was not there. Considering the elephantitis of so many content free films these days, it is a shame the movie makers did not have the budget or the runtime to put more meat on its fascinating subplots.

This guy needs another chance at his subject. Because he understands the South, and the way that southern towns are so often haunted by their past. Hopefully, he'll get a miniseries on cable to demonstrate it.
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Love It Gospel Hill
danceability-118 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
For The Love of Money.

Gospel Hill is a community in the small town of Julia. The people there have lived in their homes for generations. The Valley Corporation plans to build on Gospel Hill, so they want to buy these people out, not caring that many of them have no place else to go. Displacing an African-American community means nothing to these developers, while profiting from the new homes and golf course they plan to build means everything. That is called "the love of money", which is the root of all evil. Instead of fighting to save Gospel Hill, Dr. Ron Palmer (Giancarlo Esposito) joins the developers, making money by taking advantage of the less fortunate and calling it opportunity. Sarah Malcolm (Angela Bassett) takes a stand against the Valley Corporation. Her husband, John (Danny Glover) shows very little support. He lost his passion to fight for what's right years ago when his father, Paul, was gunned down and left to bleed to death in the street. The 40th anniversary of his father's death is approaching but he's not sure he can bring himself to attend the ceremony to honor Paul Malcolm's legacy. John has to work through the pain he's been feeling for so long. Will he do it in time to save his wife, whose life is in danger? This movie goes from present to past. The past focuses on Paul Malcolm (Samuel L. Jackson), an activist for social justice, and it's filmed in black & white - nice effect. There wasn't as much intensity as I expected for a movie dealing with racial issues, and that was fine because although I was a bit bothered by some of the content I wasn't left feeling angry. Not a whole lot of profanity. Sex scenes weren't graphic. Love Angela Bassett and the strong woman she portrayed. Church scene was touching. Gospel Hill is a good movie worth watching.

Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, Giancarlo Esposito, Julia Stiles, Nia Long, RZA, Chloe Bailey, Adam Baldwin, Angela Bassett, Casey Belville, Chuck Bibby, Charles Jones.

danceability-1, Amsterdam Holland
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