Controversial Faith-Based Film 'Canaan Land' Contends for Oscars

Canaan Land, a controversial Christian novel and now motion picture by minister-turned moviemaker Richard Rossi, is predicted to be contender at 2021 Oscars

Online PR News – 02-December-2020 – Hollywood, CA. – Richard Rossi was a maverick minister in Pittsburgh praying for the sick when he discovered big-name televangelists and megachurches were faking miracles for money. He vented his anger over the con artists into his creative writing. Rossi journeyed from scripture to script, from Pennsylvania to Hollywood, to write “Canaan Land” a novel and script about a con man preacher who falls in love with a sincere Christian woman and repents of fleecing the flock.

After twenty years of staging the story as a hit play, modifying it, and nursing a dream of making it into a movie, “Canaan Land,” written and directed by Rossi, is now an entry in the 2021 Academy Awards. The drama stars Knight Rider actress-singer Rebecca Holden in the lead role of Sister Sara Sunday and Rossi playing the role of the guitar-playing, con man preacher Brother Billy.

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars is Hollywood’s most prestigious award in the film industry. Since 1927, nominees and winners are selected by members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). 17 branches are represented within the near 10,000 person membership.

Rossi’s “Canaan Land” film, though made with volunteers on a shoestring, is on the lips of industry insiders predicting it may be the long-shot David challenging Goliath, giving big budget films from Disney, Netflix, and Warner Brothers a run for the Oscar gold in categories of film, acting, and music. Other films getting award buzz include “The Prom,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Da 5 Bloods”, “I’m Thinking of Ending Things," and “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

Theater closures, festival cancellations, and endless release delays have made the state of this year’s Oscar race unusual, but the race is on and there are more than enough great films eligible to make the 2020–21 awards season an exciting one.

One of the major changes to the 2021 Oscars is a temporary rule that will allow streaming and VOD movies that had planned theatrical releases to be eligible for the Academy Awards.

Actor-director Rossi released “Canaan Land” as a controversial Christian novel in April that rocked the religious world with its expose of fraudulent preachers and is the basis for the film coming out later this year in drive-in showings and streaming platforms. The film is inspired by Rossi’s experiences from his former life as a faith-healing evangelical minister.

The novel and film Canaan Land is described as a 21st century telling of an “Elmer Gantryesque story.” The plot revolves around Sara Sunday’s attempts at redeeming Brother Billy, who has turned her online ministry into a growing “Tinseltown racket.”

The author explains that the story contrasts Billy’s focus on offerings with Sara’s genuine faith. He added that the intention is to show the authentic by exposing the counterfeit. Mr. Rossi said, “Some religious people are upset about my novel and movie for exposing the fake preachers and miracles, but the truth shall set us free.” Canaan Land offers an unapologetic look at present-day religion and televangelism.

The novel Canaan Land is available in paperback and on Kindle devices at It is also available as an audiobook on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Proceeds from book sales are used to finish and distribute the film version of the novel.

In 2016, Christianity Today reported that the film’s production office had received messages of support as well as opposition from groups wanting to stop the film owing to its subject matter.

“Sister Sara is motivated to serve God and people,” lead actress Rebecca Holden, who also sings in the film a song produced by Joel Diamond, said. “Billy is more self-motivated. The script makes the point that we must keep our eyes on God and have discernment in choosing spiritual leaders. Leaders are human and disappoint us. Only God can provide perfect, unconditional, unfailing love.”

Richard Rossi’s filmography includes a film about Canadian evangelist Sister Aimee and Baseball’s Last Hero: 21 Clemente Stories, a film about baseball superstar Roberto Clemente, in addition to other films.

On the film’s website, Mr. Rossi describes the film as his “coming out” as a former fundamentalist. He wrote: “My story is my repentance and the character I play repents.”

The highly anticipated film version of ‘Canaan Land’ is nearly complete, Rossi and his editor Richard R. Krause Jr. are making final audio editing modifications. “Canaan Land” is set for a release by year-end 2020 in time to qualify for film awards.

Sources: Weekly Fame, Variety, Spreaker, IndieWire

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