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Why ‘Exhibiting Forgiveness’ Director Didn’t Want to Make His Autobiographical Film a Documentary | Video

“Exhibiting Forgiveness” originally started as a documentary. But, writer and director Titus Kaphar quickly realized that wouldn’t be the proper format for the autobiographical story he wanted to tell. In fact, it would be downright “insufficient.”

Debuting at the Sundance Film Festival this year, the film tells the story of a Black artist striving to use his paintings to find freedom from his past. But, when his estranged father, a recovering addict, shows up hoping to reconcile, everything changes. Together, they have to figure out a path forward.

Stopping by TheWrap’s Sundance Portrait and Interview Studio presented by NFP with his stars, Kaphar explained that, though this story definitely came from his own life, he knew almost immediately that it couldn’t be a documentary — even though he tried to make it one at first.

“It’s rooted in my experience, but it had to go beyond that to be the kind of story that I wanted it to be,” Kaphar explained. “I started the project by making a documentary and realizing that that was insufficient to tell the story, the way that I wanted to tell the story.”

He continued, “Because the documentary told me about why I was where I was right then. It didn’t help me understand how we got there. So, this script allowed us to have a conversation about fathers and sons and mothers and family — and fundamentally, forgiveness.”

The film boasts a heavy-hitting cast, with André Holland, John Earl Jelks, Andra Day and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor all starring. Day, an Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner for Lee Daniels’ “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” told TheWrap that Kaphar himself was the largest draw to the project, but so was the opportunity to work alongside the rest of the cast.

“To be back [at Sundance] with this film — which in my opinion, will be legendary in cinema,” she said. “I think it’s just such a groundbreaking film to be here with, on this couch with this incredible cast of people. I’m not blowing their heads up, they’re giants in their industry. There’s few people that can do what they do.”

Day continued, “And so to be here with this first-time director, that is so amazing with these incredible actors. It’s amazing. It’s a blessing.”

Sundance itself has had an influence on Kaphar’s filmmaking, so to be a first-time director at this particular festival held even more space for him, emotionally.

“I think for me, see, the movies that I find myself often attracted to are Sundance movies,” he noted. “Those are independent filmmakers who are trying, experimenting, doing different kinds of things. And so to be able to be included in that cadre of artists feels like a huge honor.”

You can watch TheWrap’s full interview with the cast and director of “Exhibiting Forgiveness” in the video above.

“Exhibiting Forgiveness” is a sales title at Sundance.

Check out all our Sundance coverage here.

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