By Mark F. Gray, Staff Writer, [email protected]
Filmmakers Jimmy and Joshua Jenkins grew up as children of a successful Black pastor of a church in the most affluent African American county in the United States. From their seats near the front of the pulpit of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, they listened intently for years as their father Pastor John K. Jenkins preached many sermons based on stories from the books of The Bible. As they grew, so did their faith and through a labor of love and the power of their passion they’ve brought the book of Hosea to life through their first major movie project.
“Sinners Wanted,” which now has a three-day waiting list for those who want to tickets, is the story of a young vibrant minister from Atlanta, Georgia, who relocates to Washington, D.C., for an opportunity to become pastor of a church. He learns the lessons of unconditional love by falling in love with a prostitute who drops into his life when she bursts through the church doors on the first night of his installment. These millennial filmmakers hope that by interpreting this story with an ensemble cast of actors from the D.M.V. and a compelling story told in a way that speaks to younger audiences, they can bring a generation back to church.
“We have a natural yearning to tell this generation about God’s work,” Jimmy Jenkins told the AFRO. “Seven of 10 millennials don’t have any connection to church and this is a story that shows what unconditional love is all about.”
This project took five years from inception to become a niche market success. Jenkins left his job at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta following a brief tenure with Black Entertainment Television to focus on launching his path to the silver screen. After being inspired to read the biblical passage that his friend suggested he go deeper into, his creative and spiritual passion were united. Jenkins knew then this would be the project that would allow him to blend a faith-based storyline with the realities of today’s world to impact his generation.
“It’s important to identify your target audience and to reach them,” Jenkins adds.
As independent filmmakers, the Jenkins Brothers have the flexibility and freedom to explore alternate distribution outlets. Locally, the only theatre where it can be seen is the Magic Johnson Theatre in Largo. However, over its first two weekends at the Prince George’s County cinema, 18,000 fans have paid to see the movie. According to Jenkins those figures are better than more heavily advertised films such as Disney’s “Dumbo” and the Captain Marvel spoof “Shazam”.
Since they aren’t tethered to a major studio they can explore subjects that may push corporate cinema’s political correctness. The Jenkins Brothers creative control allowed them to bring an ensemble cast featuring a strong group of actors from the D.M.V. together to bring a greater reality to the project by giving it a feel of this community.
D.C. native Clifton Powell, whose credits include appearances in “Ray” and the “Best Man,” plays the role of Peters. Lamman Rucker, a product of the Duke Ellington School for the Arts, plays Elder Roberts. Traci Braxton, is featured as Nana.
“We wanted to make it a hometown project, something we can hold onto,” Jenkins adds.
While the film’s explicit subject matter may have caused some churches to pull away. However, the first local screening was at the church the Jenkins Brothers grew up in and their father was instrumental in helping to bring the project to life.
“My parents are supportive and they understood this movie’s biblical message so he [my father] gave me the money to make it happen.”