"Same Kind of Different as Me" hits theaters Friday, and the film's writer, Ron Hall, says it couldn't have come out at a better time as racial tensions rise again.
"Today I believe that this is an ordained film. I worked on this film for 10 years and it could not be coming out at a better time period," Hall told The Christian Post. "Our nation right now is so divided with all the racism that's rearing its ugly head again."
The film tells the true story of Hall and his wife Debbie, played by Renee Zellweger, whose marriage is saved after Hall commits adultery because they get involved in working at a homeless shelter where they meet an African-American man named Denver. God used Denver to save their family.
"Same Kind of Different as Me" is based on the best-selling book of the same name. Along with Zellweger, the movie features actors Jon Voight, Djimon Hounsou as Denver, and Greg Kinnear as Ron Hall.
"I don't want anyone to ever think that this film is about a white savior, that is so wrong for people to think that," Hall commented. "If they don't know the film and they haven't read the book — this is about how a beautiful African-American man who was homeless was one of God's special people that saved our life and saved our marriage, saved my family even. He rebuilt my relationship with my father and so many other things. He healed our city, brought revival to our city of Fort Worth, Texas, this is a great story of redeeming love."
In times of great social unrest in America and the world, this timely telling bridges the gap between cultures, economic lines and race.
"This is a story that's message is 'it's not the color of our skin that divides us, it's the condition of our hearts.' As Christians, we know that. In 'Same Kind of Different as Me,' Denver's the one that says that," Hall explained. "In his extraordinary wisdom he figured out the simple truths that people just tend to overlook, that we are different, we all are different but in the end, as believers, we are the same kind of different because we were all created equally to love God and serve Him. We just have to learn to get our hearts right.
"In this film, we mixed poverty and wealth, black-and-white, and we put them all together in a very inspiring 2 1/2 hour film and then we pulled out a message of hope, love, forgiveness, redemption and a message we are hopeful, can be healing to our nation."
The motion picture captures a two-year period of what happened in Hall's life as documented in his book and screenplay. The wealthy art dealer says "Same Kind of Different as Me" is a very accurate portrayal of what happened in those two years back in 1998.
Zellweger, Kinnear, Voight and all the actors involved in the film were also greatly moved by the story.
"They all resonated with the screenplay," he revealed. "They took these roles and it was almost a sacrificial thing for them to come and be a part of this film because we didn't have the budget to pay Academy Award-winning actors what they normally would get paid. But we had a great story of love, hope, faith and redemption that they wanted to be a part of. They poured their hearts out into this and they did a fantastic job."
Hall did, however, say that it was odd to watch his life acted out on the silver screen.
"It's very strange and very painful sometimes to watch. I don't like who I was at the beginning of this film but I love the ending because it showed the redemptive nature of our God," the 72-year-old shared.
Despite being a homeless man who had a difficult upbringing, Denver really impacted Hall's life greatly.
"He always remained true to who he was. I, on the other hand, was a very arrogant, self-centered person who had to learn to be interested more in serving than in judging. In fact, Denver told me when we first got to being friends, 'The courthouse is full of judges, God don't need no more judges,' he said. 'What God needs is servants, so don't ever come down these streets to be judging my people, just come down here to serve them.'"
Because of that life view, Hall and Debbie's marriage was brought back together. As the couple served together, it helped Hall get out if his "self-centered world."
"We went there thinking we were going to be helping people and serving them but as you can tell in the story, they're the ones that ended up blessing us," he reiterated.
"After Debbie died and Denver moved into my home, he came in with absolutely nothing and ended up giving me everything. I had become wealthy as an art dealer but my life was never rich until I began serving in a mission and began being blessed by those that were basically hopeless. To see them have hope was the biggest blessing in my life."
Denver prophetically told Hall that Debbie was a target for the enemy because of her loving heart toward others. Three days before she was diagnosed with cancer, the Louisiana-bred friend of theirs told Hall, "When you become precious to God you are just as important to Satan, so watch your backside."
"God used him! I would just marvel because the man that I thought had nothing to offer to me because he was so scary and crazy, is the one that God chose to be the one that encouraged us through the most darkest days and months of our lives," Hall explained.
The Texas native said Denver would spend hours and days on his knees by the dumpster for their family and then show up at their doorstep with a word from God.
"He would show up on our doorstep the next morning and bring us this fresh, relevant message that he had gleaned from hours on his knees of talking to God. He was never wrong, not one time wrong, even on the last day that she (Debbie) was alive he came to tell us that God had told him to go tell Mrs. Debbie to lay down her torch, that He was going to take her home and that he (Denver) was supposed to pick it up and carry it the rest of his life," Hall shared.
In "Same Kind of Different as Me," Denver starts off as a really scary individual who was broken and unapproachable, but Debbie still encouraged her husband to have a relationship with the unruly, homeless man.
Hall shared advice for those are fearful toward people who are different from them.
"Any time you approach anything in fear and aggression, or in self-preservation mode you are going to scare people off. But if you go in love, with the idea of being the feet and hands of Christ, if you go with the idea of showing the love of Christ, then they become softened because love changes all," he testified.
"Denver was aggressive, a crazy person, I mean scary, but through the Christ-like love that Debbie began to show him, he turned out to not be so crazy after all," Hall emphasized. "When he stood up and spoke at her funeral, Denver said after 25 years on the street, he had no friends and didn't want any friends. Nobody even knew his name because he was so bad. He said no one had ever shown him any love, but it was the Christ in Mrs. Debbie that became the hope of glory for him.
"So anytime you go into these situations showing love, then God can overcome the fear."
Hall has since remarried, and upon meeting his new wife, Beth, he told her he now spends his whole life carrying the torch of his late wife and keeping the memory of Debbie and Denver alive. Fortunately, his new life partner wanted to carry out that mission with him.
"We go around the whole country, she travels with me everywhere. We have a homeless foundation which she basically manages," Hall disclosed.
Before Denver died in 2012, Hall and Denver shared their story at speaking events throughout the country and visited more than 200 shelters nationwide. The two reportedly helped raise $32 million for the homeless through their speaking engagements. Hall continues touring nationwide and he and his wife still raise money in 175 cities. They serve as a 911 call center for the homeless.
"We live this 24/7. We wake up doing this and we go to bed doing this. This is what God called us to do and I'm grateful that He uses me as a storyteller and He put me with someone who makes me feel good about what I'm doing and we are making a difference," Hall celebrated. "By one simple woman's dream and her faithfulness to follow through with it, we have now become a nationwide movement."
Hall hopes to give the world new eyes to see homeless people through the lenses of God and to bring them out of the world of the invisible.
"Denver used to say, 'The world doesn't want to see the homeless. They want to make them invisible, but God told me that the homeless are an opportunity for the faithful, the Christians to show the love of Christ,'" Hall echoed. "They are not a problem, they are an opportunity."
"This was all started by a random act of kindness and we want our movie to inspire people to do the same. Just begin with beautiful random acts of kindness to anyone that you encounter and you never know because there is the ripple effect to an act of kindness who will just continue to pay it forward," Hall concluded.
"Together we can change the world, just one random act of kindness at a time. My hope for this film is to give people a new heart. Quit focusing on color and just give us a bigger heart to love everyone."
The artist turned author, missionary and screenwriter finished his interview with a plea for all believers to go support "Same Kind of Different as Me" in theaters.
"If we want these kinds of stories told, we have to go support them at the box office because other than that, all we're gonna have are more films about people blowing up cities and killing everybody and just destroying the world. This is a movie about changing the world and we have to get the support because Hollywood doesn't want these stories told because they believe that Christians have the power to change the world and they don't want that. So we have to support these films if we want more of them told," he ended.
While the movie isn't billed as a faith-based film, it was produced by Paramount Pictures and popular Christian entertainment company, Pure Flix. The book, Same Kind of Different as Me, was on the New York Times best-seller list for over three years.
For more information about the film, click here.