Richard Rossi Is Making a Movie. “Canaan Land”: A Preview

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Richard Rossi is making a movie.

Richard Rossi is an evangelical preacher and faith healer.

Richard Rossi is making a movie about evangelical preaching and faith healing as a con.

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Richard Rossi believes in faith healing and is a fine preacher.

Richard Rossi is a stand-up comic and one of his routines is a parody of evangelical preaching.

Richard Rossi is making a movie called “Canaan Land.”

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates …”[Genesis 15:18]

“The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”[Genesis 17:8]

“The Lord … spoke to me (Abraham) and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land …’”[Genesis 24:7]

“I also established My covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they lived as aliens.”[Exodus 6:4]

  Of his film’s title, Rossi says,

“The Israelites were oppressed in slavery for 400 years.  When they made the exodus to freedom, (celebrated at Passover), they made a journey to Canaan Land, the Promised Land, a land of milk and honey.  

My wife, 2 children and I moved 3,000 miles from my hometown of Pittsburgh to her native California.  We felt like the Israelites, a mobile family on a journey to a new land.”

And on the subject of the film itself, Richard Rossi has a great deal to say.

“You’ll find this film is a needed expose and search for authentic faith, based on my past experiences in the world of evangelism.”  

“This film is my coming out as a former fundamentalist who can no longer subscribe to the beliefs and practices I did before. My story is my repentance and the character I play repents. I’m going to publicly challenge the biggest names in religion to repent and give back the money they’ve ripped off from the poor.”

And so we have “Canaan Land,” with seven days of shooting completed, a film that is a denunciation of fundamentalists who are in it for the money, of fake healers and false prophets,  of the preachers who exploit the deepest needs of the vulnerable by offering them–God.

In my brief acquaintance with Richard, I have become certain of one thing.  He is a passionate man. He is passionate in his faith, passionate in his belief that through a true faith we can heal and be healed, passionate in his rejection of those who would  violate faith.

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Among his many talents, Richard is a brilliant comedian and his send-up of the training in preaching techniques he received at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University has a sharp edge, something dark that isn’t, after all, exactly funny.  There is an anger underneath the almost slapstick performances as he demonstrates the “moves” necessary to succeed as a televangelist.  

Richard Rossi is a serious and a passionate man, and he doesn’t intend to let the sleeping dogs of fundamentalism lie although he walked away from that world many years ago.  In spite of his success in the Promised Land of Hollywood, California, Richard Rossi isn’t quite free.

And so he is making a movie, a movie that is more than a movie, that is–by his own admission–his “repentance,” his mea culpa for whatever he perceives as his sins, of commission and omission.

He is making a movie called “Canaan Land,” a movie about all the Promised Lands we pursue, about all the Promised Lands that are true and all that are not, about all the lengths to which we will go, all the twists and turns we find ourselves taking to get there, a movie about all the compromises and all the sacrifices we make, just to get there, just to arrive.

The casting of the film is telling and Richard says, pointedly,
“‘Canaan Land’ is about a consummate charismatic con man played by me.” 

Although he is quick to assert that “Canaan Land” is not an attack on religion, it certainly promises to be an all-out assault on the kind of phony religion that demands thousands of dollars as the purchase price of being “trained in the Spirit” to be a healer.  Summing up nicely the core belief that has led him to this particular Canaan, Rossi says,

“The film is not an attack on religion.  It is my intention in exposing the counterfeit to show the search for that which is pure, lovely, true. Defensive believers may say we shouldn’t expose the counterfeit, but a counterfeit testifies that there is a truth sets us free.”

Richard is a gospel man, a Jesus man, an honest man.  He is, finally, more sad than angry, when he says,

“There are 30,000 denominations yet too few do what Jesus said to do: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and fallen” (Matthew 25).  

“Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

“Go into a closet to pray” (Matthew 6:6).

In a scene from the film, Richard plays Brother Billy, the evangelical con man preacher teaching televangelist trade secrets to two con men friends.

“Canaan Land” isn’t just about that charismatic con man. It is about “Brother Billy” meeting “‘Sister Sara’,” a faith healing evangelist who is a truly anointed prayer intercessor.” It is about what happens when the false runs up against the true and can’t look away.

The stage directions tell us that

“SISTER SARA SUNDAY, mid-forties, is the leader. Dressed in
white, her face is covered in a shroud. She’s a mystic.
Vibrant, electric, she commands attention. She has piercing
eyes and a voice with range that gives her innocent
spirituality added enticement. She’s feminine, but
forbidden. God is more than a word to her.”

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Early in the script, Sister Sara, combining preaching and song, intones,

“There’s a myriad of angels there in
Heaven, cherubim & seraphim. Others
may scare you with Hell, threats of
fear and fire, devils and
damnation. But I’d rather talk
about God’s perfect, perfumed
place. The happiness of Heaven.
That’s where my anointing comes
from. From the celestial city, the
New Jerusalem.”

Perhaps in the way of all truly spiritual stories–and Richard Rossi is, above all else, a storyteller–“Canaan Land” is, in the end, a love story.

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Be a part of the making of “Canaan Land,” a feature film to be released in December of 2017 at

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5 Responses to "Richard Rossi Is Making a Movie. “Canaan Land”: A Preview"
  1. I enjoyed reading this. Nice work.

  2. David J. Klemt says:

    Fascinating, but I think it my be a little misguided. Not a movie I wold be interested in viewing.

  3. Ellen Lee Bunton says:

    Interesting, especially since he is coming from a place of past experience, and not just a naysayer. Screaming preachers have always turned me off, they remind me of annoying sales people and God is free.

  4. Audra Jean says:

    I found the phrase, “counterfeit testifies that there is a truth” interesting, and hopeful. I also find it comforting in the acknowledgement that there are cons, but there are also authentic people of faith. To me, that confirms the reality I have suspected.

  5. I loved Richard Rossi’s biopic films about Roberto Clemente and Aimee Semple McPherson and I think this Canaan Land film is going to be his best one yet!

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