Following a controversial awards season fueled by lack of diversity in Hollywood, comes a beautiful, miraculous story about a young girl and her family. It’s a film about accessing faith and the strength of family but it also does one other thing, it fosters diversity. And it isn’t even the intent of filmmakers — DeVon Franklin, TD Jakes, and Joe Roth.
Diversity in Hollywood has been a hot-button #OscarsSoWhite issue since the 2015 Oscars and subject-matter experts predict it will be just as politically charged next year with the current imbalance in the representation of women and people of color in writing, directing and acting jobs.
While we’re protesting on social media platforms and studios are readying diversity programs like filmmakers workshops and the like in swift reaction, Columbia Pictures (a Sony Company) in association with AFFIRM Films, a Roth Films/T.D. Jakes/Franklin Entertainment production, has been working on a cure of their own, the film Miracles from Heaven, which stars Jennifer Garner, Kylie Rogers and Queen Latifah.
Directed by Patricia Riggen, a Mexican film director, the film is based on a book by Christy Beam, a Texas wife, mother and author of the book by the same name, who fought for four years alongside her daughter Annabel, who was battling an incurable, life-threatening disorder.
At only 4 years old Anna, as she is affectionately called, suffered from pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, a rare condition that simulates the symptoms of a bowel obstruction, and antral hypomotility disorder, in which weak contractions in the antral part of the stomach cause delayed gastric emptying. The conditions cause extreme bloating and are considered incurable.
And to top it off, she had a near fatal accident that allowed her the pleasure of going to heaven, meeting Jesus, and being led by a guardian angel.
Anna and Christy Beam’s story landed in the producers’ hands and history was made. Backed by Heaven is for Real film cohorts, Roth and Jakes, and adding Franklin to the list of producers, the film is based on the true story of the Beam family’s miracle.
“We were all looking for a way to follow up Heaven is For Real but not with the same story. This felt current and real,” shares Roth (Maleficent, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Great Debaters). “I’ve seen it five times and never stop crying.”
“[This story] is a page turner. When we all read it, it was just one of those stories. A real story of a mom fighting for her child, losing her faith and trying to hold her family together that just spoke to us. When we all put it down and felt this was a story we need to tell,” offers Franklin.
TD Jakes’ literary agent introduced them to the story. He adds, “I think the Beam family has such an unusual charisma. Our job was to imitate a reality that was right in front of us. We didn’t have to build the characters. The Beam family is charismatic, realistic and Texans…right down the street from me. We’ve had an opportunity to eat with them, to worship with them, to know their family and to become grafted into their life.” Jakes has produced a host of films including Woman Thou Art Loosed, Jumpin’ the Broom, and Sparkle.
Queen Latifah is one of the stars of the film. Her character is based on a fiery waitress the Beams met while visiting Boston Children’s Hospital for Anna’s medical treatments. While the role is small, it is important and pivotal. And, she’s appropriately named Angela.
Latino actor Eugenio Derbez plays Boston gastroenterologist, Dr. Samuel Nurko, who specializes in Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition focusing on Gastrointestinal Motility Disorders.
MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN opens in theaters everywhere Wednesday, March 16.