Director David Cunningham Celebrates the Power of Adoption in Movie "Running for Grace"

David Cunningham

The new family movie RUNNING FOR GRACE is available on Video On Demand beginning on Monday August 20.  RUNNING FOR GRACE stars Ryan Potter, Jim Caviezel and Matt Dillon.

The story revolves around an orphan boy of mixd race finds family with the newly arrived white village doctor in 1920's Hawaii. The boy can run like the wind, and begins brining Doc's medicine to coffee pickers throughout the mountainous region. On an errand, the medicine runner meets the daughter of the plantation owner and a young love blossoms like the white "Kona Snow" of the surrounding coffee trees. 

Director David Cunningham comes from a long line of missionaries and ministers. 7 generations on one side, 4 on the other. His great-grandfather started 13 churches from his covered wagon. His grandmother was one of the first ordained women in her denomination. His great uncle was a POW in China during WWII. He sent his pregnant wife home on a red cross ship and stayed with the Christians who were imprisoned during the war...and his parents were the founders of Youth With A Mission.  

Q:  Thank you David for doing this interview with us.  Let's start with yourself: you came from a rich legacy of faith where seven generations served as missionaries.  How has this legacy influenced you and your involvement in making movies?

Thank you for having me.   I grew up in an interdenominational missions organization that my parents started called YWAM (Youth With A Mission).  I grew up traveling the world with my folks and saw so many amazing people engaged with a broken and hurting world.   I also witnessed all of the incredible cultures and heard their stories.  I think growing up that way shaped me to become a story teller and hopefully tell stories that honor and celebrate people but also address hardships.

Q:  Congratulations on the release of your new movie "Running for Grace."  Very briefly, what is this movie about?

Thank you!  Grateful!  Running For Grace is a movie made for the whole family and is set in segregated 1920's Hawai'i in a mountain coffee community.  The largest immigrant community of the time were of Japanese ancestry.  Our story centers around a boy named "Jo" (played by Ryan Potter) who is an illegitimate orphan of mixed race, half Japanese and half white.   He is rejected by both the Japanese and the white community and is eventually taken under the wing of a new plantation doctor played by Matt Dillon.   Doc and Jo must overcome the social restraints of the time. 

Q: What first attracted you to the script of this movie?

When my producing partner, Edwin Marshall, brought me the initial script by Christian Parkes I was intrigued with the core story line of Doc and Jo.  Christian was trusting and generous enough to let me do my own pass at the script and I came aboard as a co writer.

Q:  People may be surprised about the story of racism in Hawaii during the 1920s. How is this important today?

Today, I believe Hawai'i is the most diverse (ethnically) state in the USA. I grew up in Hawai'i and am raising my kids there.  It is a wonderful place to raise a family.  However, in the 1920s it was a very different place.  The various immigrant plantation workers were intentionally kept segregated so they could be controlled.  Also, there was a terrible federal law that orphans of mixed race could not be legally adopted. They called it "racial integrity". Now, Hawai'i has a host culture of adoption called "hanai" which is a beautiful spirit of recognizing everyone needs to be a part of a family.  I felt like this contrast was a fascinating context and a way to enter into a world where the power of adoption, the importance of belonging, is celebrated.

Q:  How did Jim Caveziel and Matt Dillon get involved in the project?  What was it like working with them? 

It was a privilege to work with both Jim and Matt.  I have been a huge fan of both of them for a long time.  Jim and I met some years back so we had some history.  But the key in getting them both involved was their engagement with the script and some of my past movies that they appreciated so there was trust there.

Q:  What were some of the highlights for you in making this movie?

I have made movies around the world.  It was a real joy to make a movie in my back yard with my family.  My wife did the hair and make up, my kids were stand ins and extras and we worked with many of our friends in some of my favorite parts of Hawai'i Island.  That was a real highlight for me. 

Q:  What do you hope people take away after they see the film?

An uplifting movie experience the whole family can watch together that celebrates the power of adoption.


Tags : david cunningham interview david cunningham running for grace movie matt dillon running for grace film jim caviezel Ryan Potter

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