By Jasmine Glover
Florida A&M University (FAMU) alumnus Amir Windom and the Crawfordville minister who helped him produce “Canal Street” held a screening of the movie for the students, faculty and staff of FAMU at AMC Tallahassee 20 on January 22.
“Canal Street” is a Christian-based drama about a teenager Kholi Styles, (Bryshere Y. Gray, who played Hakeem on “Empire”), who tries his best to succeed in a new environment. After adjusting to a new school, a mysterious death results and Kohli is the main suspect in the crime. His only hope to get out of this web of hate is his lawyer who is also his father, Jackie Styles (Mykelti Williamson, who played Gabriel in “Fences”). FAMU alumnus Woody McClain also stars in the movie.
“One of the things that blows people’s minds when they see the movie is that they feel like we wrote it maybe a year ago because of some of the social climates that we currently live in. This movie was written in 2005,” said Kevin Mullens, executive producer.
Mullens and Windom randomly met in Tallahassee on an airplane about five years ago. They say their first production is only the start of their career in making content that is soul-touching and inspiring.
“Canal Street” was written by Adam Key, Jon Knitter, and Rhyan LaMarr, who is also a producer and director of the movie. According to Mullens, the movie is synonymous with LaMarr’s life.
“A lot of this came from authentic rooted stories in the depth of his own personal life that he channeled and turned into this beautiful story,” said Mullens. “Rhyan LaMarr lived on the Southside of Chicago; he then moved as his family split ways and went to a predominantly white school. There he found his love for filmmaking.”
Crews shot “Canal Street” in just 16 days with 60 actors and a $2 million budget. The movie premiered on January 18, and three of the producers, including seven-time Grammy award-winner Windom, decided to host a screening and “talk back” session to promote the movie.
The feedback from the audience was powerful and positive. Carmen Cummings, an alumna of FAMU and senior executive director of FAMU’s Alumni Affairs and University Engagement enthusiastically expressed how proud she is of the movie and Windom.
“This was truly an impactful project,” said Cummings. “I want to thank you, for one, coming back home where it all begins. Because there are many millennials that you will have a profound impact. Thank you for reminding us that generally there is no pain without purpose.”
Cummings concluded her heartfelt review with simple advice. “And despite everything that may be happening in this climate, in which we live, breathe and move, there is common ground,” said Cummings.
Many others in the theater shared similar takeaways from the movie, and, according to Windom, that was the ultimate goal.
“When we started looking at this movie, we wanted to make sure that it was colorless, it depicted fathers in general in a loving and compassionate way,” said Windom. “And we also wanted to make sure that we instill the message that we can go out and protest, but one thing we should also try is love, have faith, and the mindset of unity to try to understand different perspectives.”
To request that “Canal Street” play in theaters near you, go to https://canalstreetmovie.com/demand/ and fill out the form.