CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
Jason North, Tim Sutherland
Mark Beckford was just another gang member, a young man struggling to survive island life in the Bahamas. Despite having opportunities to escape his life of poverty and drugs, Beckford had pretty much relegated himself to the destiny that befalls all too many young men in this seemingly idyllic island nation.
Then, "it" happened. Beckford was incarcerated for a man's murder, and despite his open acknowledgment of the drugs and violence that had defined his life, this was one crime for which Beckford was not guilty. With a justice system seemingly pleased to have the increasingly violent young man behind bars, it seemed as if Beckford's fate had been decided. Beckford, in Walk of Redemption, shares that he prayed to God that if he got out of jail he would find a way to turn his life around.
Then, completely unexpectedly, "it" happened again. Authorities discovered a murder weapon and, shortly thereafter, the real killer was found and Beckford was again a free man. Beckford did not go back on his promise to God and, despite having lived a life that had been all too frequently defined by drugs and violence, Beckford began turning his life around.
Co-directed by recent Taylor University grads Jason North and Tim Sutherland, Walk of Redemption was an official selection of the 2010 Heartland Film Festival, a festival that celebrates films that inspire, promote positive values and celebrate the human spirit.
Indeed, Mark Beckford's incredible spirit and commit to the youth of the Bahamas is worth celebrating.
Beckford stepped out of a gang life and into a life of faith, even starting with his wife the Joshua and Esther Foundation to help support the youth in the Bahamas. Using the sport of basketball as one of its key ministry tools, the Joshua and Esther Foundation started when Beckford took his young son one day to the basketball to teach him the basics. Before long, a few other youngsters had joined in and, in rapid order, a weekly gathering became a widely attended daily gathering and, before long, Beckford was acting as parent, mentor, guide and disciplinarian to, quite literally, hundreds of youth who would show up for daily activities.
Beckford would come into contact with the filmmakers after an American missions team visited the Bahamas, supported the work of his foundation and, in turn, arranged for Beckford to return to the states on scholarship to attend Taylor University. The story of Beckford's efforts to balance improving himself while remaining faithful to his undeniable calling is inspiring and, in particular, his experiences upon returning to the island nation after his freshman year are powerful lessons in faith, forgiveness and breaking the cycle of violence.
At 53 minutes, Walk of Redemption is definitely on the short end of what can be considered a feature length documentary and, even at 53 minutes, there are a few moments in the film that drag towards the middle and, during the Heartland screening this critic attended, the film's images were occasionally a touch grainy (later acknowledged by the filmmaker). In its world premiere at Heartland, it seems likely that both issues will be worked out as the film prepares to begin its festival run.
For more information on the Joshua and Esther Foundation, visit the organization's website. Walk of Redemption is likely to be a popular doc on the indie film festival circuit, and will especially appeal to faith-based organizations, churches and youth groups seeking a positive, inspiring yet real message for its youngsters.
Check out my interview with Jason North, co-director of Walk of Redemption.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic