It’s easy to forget that film can actually be used to inspire us to do and be better. Writer-director Allen Wolf’s short film, Harlem Grace, is the story of a man who left a life of privilege to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. When we meet Joe Holland (Michael Anthony Walker), he has just graduated from Harvard. Instead of following in the footsteps of his famous father, Joe decides to move to Harlem and help the community. He’s unsure how but knows God will show him the way.
Years later, we find Joe passing out pamphlets on the street corner, eager to talk to anyone about Jesus Christ, but no one is biting. Seeing a homeless person, Joe takes a step of faith and talks to Harvey (Michael Broughton), a drug addict who has been living on the streets after being kicked out of the home by his wife. Joe offers to let Harvey take a shower at his apartment. In turn, the grateful Harvey steals Joe’s belongings, including a watch his father gave him.
Days later, Joe would get a phone call from Harvey begging him to bail him out of jail. Summoning the will to forgive, Joe convinces the church to open a men’s shelter with Harvey as their first client. Eventually, Joe builds a growing ministry and shelter for men looking to kick their drug addictions and ultimately find work and a new life. But the road to this point was far from easy.
“…Joe convinces the church to open a men’s shelter…”
Harlem Grace shows that sometimes, it takes just one man to listen to God and put his reputation and life on the line for his fellow man. Joe Holland is one such person, and the film is a testament to this man of faith who was far from perfect. Joe toiled with forgiveness when Harvey stole from him and was a bit impatient when the man left the recovery program early, thinking he was fully healed. Joe struggles to see Harvey the way God does.
As you can tell, this is a faith-based story. It’s hard to criticize films like this with a positive message. Doing so almost undermines the good intentions of the filmmaker. Having seen more than my fair share of faith films, which are mostly low-budget, Wolf’s drama falls in line in terms of quality. It definitely falls a bit short in the acting categories, and the writing of each scene feels like a church play versus an authentic Oscar-award-winning cinematic drama. Either way, it’s good enough for the church crowd.
What is essential about stories like Harlem Grace is that there are people like Joe Holland who live by faith and, like Jesus, choose to live amongst the sinners to change lives. We live in a time where people like Joe are few and far between. Ultimately, the challenge is laid before you. What does God want you to do with the life He gave you?
For screening information, visit the Harlem Grace official website.
"…good enough for the church crowd."