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Directing Unity

Written by Fathom Events on Jun 07, 2023 6:24 PM

Representation of racial division in cinema alongside healthy, productive conversations is rare in our contemporary climate. Soul Doctor’s director, Daniel Wise, and Craig Lamar Brown, the director of Between Mercy and Me are both using music to unite communities and inspire viewers to have constructive conversations about stereotypes, race, and interracial relationships.  

Soul Doctor, shares the true story of Nina Simone & Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach’s musical journey together that shined a light brightly on the struggles faced by the Black and Jewish communities in the early 1960s.  The Broadway musical, which was performed and filmed in Jerusalem left audiences spiritually inspired, allowing for authentic connections to be made and honest conversations to take place. 

Between Mercy and Me is a story about Hugo, a talented musician and worship leader, and his relationship with fellow musician, Mercy. The pair set out to unite their divided communities through music. Craig Lamar Brown, writer, director, producer, and actor has taken his personal experiences and injected them into his first feature film. He wants to inspire open conversation, using music and narrative pacing to achieve that. 

With Soul Doctor and Between Mercy and Me coming to theaters nationwide this month, we sat down with the directors to hear their stories about the making of these films. 

1. Why did you want to make a film on this theme? 

Daniel: “Soul Doctor began life as a theatrical workshop in New York City. It was the enthusiasm of the audiences that galvanized the show into full productions across the country, from New Orleans all the way to Broadway. The harmony and joyous participation of theatre audiences everywhere compelled me to recreate this transformative, live experience for local communities to share together at the movies. Unity is good for us.” 

Craig: “Making my directorial debut, with a movie about racial division would not have been my first choice. However, at the peak of Covid and racial tensions due to the death of George Floyd, I could clearly see a disconnect between having healthy and productive conversations around race. 

Often the media forces you to choose a side. I wanted to create something that brought people to the table instead of igniting more emotionally- fueled conversations that are only aimed to get a point across to the opposing side. 

Between Mercy and Me is not the movie I wanted to make, but it was the movie I needed to make.”  

2. Why is music so important to the production?  

Daniel: Soul Doctor tells a story of people from entirely different worlds who are able to relate, learn and heal through the universal language of music. When our audiences spontaneously sing and clap along with the movie it is art creating life. Music is a connecting force, not just in the movies, but in humanity.” 

Craig: “Although there’s a lot of beauty to uncover when having positive conversations around race, the topic itself can be heavy. That’s where music comes in! Music can do things for the human spirit that sometimes, dialogue, camera shots, and actors can’t. This film is written in the form of a conversation, and music helps move the conversation in powerful ways. Music is something that breaks through racial barriers and cultures. Think about it. When at a baseball game, we effortlessly all join in at the “Take me out to the ball game…” without thinking about it. Same goes for Bon Jovi’s Livin‘ on a Prayer, Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, and Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. No one thinks about the ethnicity of the person who wrote the song, their political stances, they simply join in and enjoy these songs with countless other strangers. If complete strangers can unify for 3 minutes over a song, how much more can this happen over the course of a feature-length film?!” 

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3. Why do you think/or how do you want the film to resonate now?  

Daniel: “These days I sense our society drifting from tolerance and diversity towards tribalism and divisiveness. Soul Doctor tells the story of two people who found power within their dissimilitude to uplift each other and heal the world around them.” 

Craig: “Post 2020 and Covid lockdowns, and the death of George Floyd, the media has moved on to other things. I believe now is a great time to pursue ways we can all be more unified without the influence of divisive media outlets. We’ve all wrestled with our own thoughts and emotions around the subject of race but weren’t given opportunities to have healthy dialogue with others. I think this film will act as a tool to facilitate more unifying conversations.” 

4. What resources will you offer the audience if they want to dive in more? 

Daniel: “The Soul Doctor Discussion Guide will be available to download from our website. This tool kit includes a study guide with historical background as it relates to the social and political dilemmas of our day.” 

Craig: UNDIVIDED has been an excellent resource for me and my team. UNDIVIDED provides workshops, cohort programs validated by academic standards, keynotes and training sessions that guide individuals toward cultivating awareness, fostering growth, and taking actionable steps to promote racial justice within their communities and organizations.” 

Blog - Directing Unity - Scene


Movies offer an opportunity not only for entertainment but a chance to be exposed to a different point of view.  And injecting music and an objective opinion on race allows an audience to digest and discuss the subject openly. This is something both Craig and Daniel hope viewers will take away from their films.  

Soul Doctor will be in theaters June 13th followed by Between Mercy and Me on the 20th. Experience these inspiring stories and visit our event page for films similar to this one.

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