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Movie Discussion: Father's Kingdom
Lead by Victoria Kirkham

Thursday, September 10, 2020


This documentary, directed and co-produced by Lenny Feinberg (“The Art of the Steal’), tells the story of Father Divine, who was born in poverty, the son of emancipated slaves.

At his peak, Father Divine was one of America’s most controversial religious leaders. He preached that he himself was an incarnation of God, and that by following his rules of purity and celibacy, you can live forever in “heaven on earth.” His movement, dedicated to integration and communal living, was an innovator in desegregating neighborhoods, schools, businesses, and the ballot box in the 1930’s and 40’s.

Divine commanded hundreds of properties and businesses, all funded by the work of his thousands of followers. But scandal, suspicion, and racism lead to clashes with the law.

Penn’s Village member and Professor Emerita of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania, Victoria Kirkham, lead a discussion of the film.

Watch the movie for free if you have a library card on www.kanopy.com. If you do not have a library card, it is available to rent on Amazon.com for $2.99 or on youtube.com for $3.99. 

Questions to consider prior to and during viewing were shared with our registered participants:


To discuss after viewing:

1.Who was Father Divine? 

2. Do you think the film director portrays him objectively?

3. How can we relate this to the Black Lives Matter movement?

4. Does it have special resonance for you as a Philadelphian?
To think about when you watch the film:

1. What are the first images we see (“establishing shots”)? What is the last image?

2. Does the film fall into segments or divisions? Are there progressive shifts in tone or mood?

3. What are the documentary director’s resources (e.g., people he interviews, filming locations, archival material, sound track music)?

4. Can you see symbolism in the film (e.g., seasons of the year or times of day, internal vs. external shots, light vs. dark, age vs. youth)?

Movie Discussion Screenshot 1
Movie Discussion Screenshot 1