Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Karen Armstrong, 
CNW Correspondent
"Canaan Land," a feature film telling a contemporary story of an Elmer Gantryish evangelist, is in preproduction. Written by former healing evangelist Richard Rossi, the film project has already stirred up controversy and concern among big names in televangelism, before a single frame of film has been shot.

Rossi's prior short film on female evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson won Southern Motion Picture Council Awards, and was Academy Award considered.  His recent biopic on baseball icon Roberto Clemente was praised by Pope Francis and catalyzed a campaign to consider Clemente's canonization as the next saint as reported in the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Religion News, and Huffington Post.  His new film "Canaan Land" has angered famous TV healers to the point they've threatened Rossi. 

"Shocking evidence of how off-the-hinges these big name preachers are in their verbal abuse to Mr. Rossi will be released publicly soon," said a private detective who spoke under condition of anonymity.  He is investigating the case and protecting Rossi as he makes "Canaan Land."  "We will be releasing to national media very soon tape and film evidence of top TV Pentecostal preachers efforts to destroy Mr. Rossi and the film."
"The production office has received messages trying to stop the film from going forward from some of the biggest names in charismatic and Pentecostal televangelism, because Rossi's film reveals secrets of the tricks famous preachers have used to fool their audiences.  But for every negative message, we receive a hundred positive ones from people who see Rossi doing what Jesus did when he cleansed the Temple of those defrauding sincere worshippers.  The film is not a remake of the 1960 film 'Elmer Gantry.' It is a completely new story based on Rossi's youthful experiences in the world of fundamentalist Pentecostalism," Linda Rivas, a production assistant said.

Rossi would not say who is upset over the film project, but the Go Fund Me site for the film (See  http://www.gofundme.com/canaanland ) had a picture of faith healer Benny Hinn with a quote from the Los Angeles Times in which Hinn appears to promise healing for money.  "If you come back and make that financial pledge, God will heal your heart tonight," Hinn said.
"There is power in our work when we take a stand," Rossi said.  "Hinn's statement is so clearly wrong and manipulative I must take a stand," Rossi said.  Rossi has temporarily removed the Hinn quote because he wants the focus to be on the positive message of the film, what he calls the "unconditional love of God."

Followers of Hinn threatened Rossi on his Facebook page that God would get Rossi, smiting him with sickness.  "His followers appear to take a cue from Hinn himself who has said those that oppose him would be shot with a "Holy Ghost machine gun," associate producer Dave Taschner said.  "We do have consultants on the film who worked with the most famous faith healers."

"I don't want to defame people by name, so my film is fiction and will change names to avoid lawsuits," Rossi said.  "My film has a redemptive ending that I don't want to spoil, in which even the narcissistic evangelist running the con is confronted by the reality of unconditional love.  God loves those who start out with pure hearts and get seduced by money, power, and fame.  He wants them to come back to their first love."

"Canaan Land is a timely fascinating compelling script that is already getting press due to it's unapologetic look at modern religion," Dann Mead said.  Mead is an actor promoting the film & rumored to be attached.

"Richard Rossi, who performed the role of Elmer Gantry on stage, and the real life character David Hutton who inspired the fictional Gantry on screen in the movie 'Sister Aimee: The Aimee Semple McPherson Story,' portrays an evangelist. Rossi's preacher character is a Gantrylike con man who builds a church and TV ministry. He gets caught up in the business side of evangelism and loses his connection to the Holy Spirit," Linda Rivas, who is a volunteer spokesperson for the project in handling the controversy said.

                                SISTER SARA
"Canaan Land, at its core, is a love story," Elizabeth Rossi said in a recent radio interview.  Ms. Rossi is Richard's sister and an associate producer of the film.  "Brother Gantry falls in love with Sister Sara, a true believer who helps bring about his repentance and redemption."

Thousands of actresses, known and unknown, have auditioned for the coveted role of Sister Sara.  The casting decision hasn't been finalized, but is narrowed down to a handful of "stellar candidates," according to the film's website.
Katy Perry's parents are Pentecostal preachers. 

"Actresses and singers with Pentecostal backgrounds who are interested in exploring the themes, are among the names who have come up in discussions and been pursued and considered," Brad Shapiro, a casting associate said.  Two who were raised in the signs and wonders of Pentecostalism are Katy Perry and Megan Fox.  "Mr. Rossi, as the writer, tends to think in terms of who is best for the part, not their degree of fame or IMDB ranking."
Megan Fox was raised Pentecostal.  
She says she still "prays in tongues."
"Rossi's script exposes faith healing frauds and gimmicks big name preachers have used to con the flock," Tyrone Lee, one of the film's volunteer production assistants said. "He wants to contrast the false side of religion with that which is authentic.  He knows this world from the inside and will reveal the magic tricks for the first time."

"Looking back on my years as a healing evangelist, I never did anything fraudulent to fake healings," Rossi said.  "I prayed sincerely wanting God to heal people, and refused to report healings without medical verification.  I was honest when people weren't healed and up front about the suffering we go through."
"My time in that world allowed me to see shocking tricks some big names do," Rossi said.  "They fake miracles, such as a gold dust stunt... a rigged trick they claim is angel feathers and gold flakes falling from Heaven. This hoax helped turn a church in California into the mecca for the charismatic movement," Rossi said.  "When the crowds for my healing services grew bigger, I lost my way spiritually.   I see that happening to some of the well-known healing evangelists today."

"The film is not an attack on religion," Rossi said.  "It is my intention in exposing the counterfeit to show the search for that anointing of the Holy Spirit which is pure, lovely, true, and of good report. Overly defensive believers may say we shouldn't expose the counterfeit, but a counterfeit testifies that there is a real anointing, a truth that sets us free."
               ADDITIONAL INFO
For more information, visit http://www.gofundme.com/canaanland
 The film's Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/CanaanLandMovie 
The "Canaan Land Company" production phone number is: 1-(507)-400-CAST