Director's Statement: Adamma Ebo

There have been moments from earlier on in my life that I now realize as questioning the state of organized religion and certain leaders that helmed it.

In truth, it started out just being generally annoyed with aspects that came along with being Southern Baptist. Why did I have to wake up ridiculously early for church services that last 3 plus hours? Wait, why can’t I dress up for Halloween and go trick-or-treating? And I’m supposed to forfeit the Harry Potter series because it’s devil’s work?

So yeah, these were... irritating, to say the least. But I’d always been able to compartmentalize those sorts of things as wacky cultural traditions and extreme misunderstandings. But as I got older, I began to recognize that so much of this stuff was directly related to the power and influence of the leaders in charge. And that so many people were willing to follow these leaders to a fault - no matter what hypocrisies they spewed or moral atrocities they committed. And this recognition became the most fervent when, during my teenage years, the Pastor of an extremely prominent and successful mega-church in Atlanta was found to have had sexual relationships with “young men” (who had just crossed the legal threshold) who were members of his church.

This was painful for me. Sure, there were characteristics of “church” that I couldn’t jive with but I was able to somehow write them off as circumstantial incidents that didn’t necessarily negatively affect other people. But then this scandal came to light, and I began to learn that abuse of power within religious institutions was not only an excruciatingly common occurrence– but also, the general response to these instances of abuse, particularly from members of the church, was to forgive and forget these atrocities; give the correct apologies and prayers and move on. And that absolutely horrified me.

And then I realized. I couldn’t be complicit within this institution anymore. I knew that I would need to make a decision about where I belonged religiously and spiritually.

"Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul." was born from that realization, but the heart of the story was escalated by the fact that I haven’t fully come to a concrete decision yet. The story ends a bit ambiguously, and leaves the protagonist, Trinitie, obviously facing the huge decision of leaving her Pastor Husband, and thus possibly renouncing her faith. And, just like Trinitie, though I am very aware of how problematic organized religion and Christianity can be, I am still fighting that decision. Because, despite how critical I am of “the church”– there is still so much about it that I love and find beneficial and beautiful. And I am still so culturally linked to what it means to my history and my community as a black woman from Atlanta Georgia, that it doesn’t feel right to just leave it all behind. Not when we can truly come together, deconstruct the issues - and just do fucking better.

Adamma Ebo

Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

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IN THEATERS AND ON PEACOCK SEPTEMBER 2ND
 

Official Trailer: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

 
 
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Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.

September 2, 2022

About the Film
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Director's Statement: Adamma Ebo

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Regina Hall stars as Trinitie Childs.

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Sterling K. Brown stars as Lee-Curtis Childs.

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Nicole Beharie stars as Shakura Sumptor.

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Conphidance stars as Keon Sumptor.

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Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. started its life as a feature film script while writer and director Adamma Ebo was completing her MFA in Directing at UCLA in 2015.

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One of the key evolutions from the original feature script was the inclusion of Shakura and Keon Sumptor - played by Nicole Beharie and Conphidance - the up-and-coming, younger co-pastors of Heaven’s House, where many of the Childs’ congregation now go to worship.

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Some of the most memorable scenes in Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. involve style, music, and dance. Given how important fashion is to Baptist Church culture, the clothes and hats were integral to the story being told, especially given the wealth that the Childs have accumulated from donations and gifts.

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When it came to casting Trinitie’s larger-than-life husband, Lee-Curtis Childs, the journey to find the right actor to portray a charismatic pastor ill at ease with himself, took a slightly more winding path.

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When they asked who Adamma saw in the role of Trinitie Childs, she remembers saying, “a Regina Hall type,” not daring to dream that they would actually land Regina Hall.

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Adamma Ebo [l] and Adanne Ebo

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Given the script’s unique blend of comedy coupled with the subject matter of a scandal serious enough to warrant the loss of the majority of the Childs’ congregation, striking the right balance for the film was incredibly important to everyone involved.