Angel Studios Film ‘Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot’ Premieres in Los Angeles

Angel Studios Film ‘Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot’ Premieres in Los Angeles

(L-R) Josh Weigel, Rebekah Weigel, Demetrius Grosse, the Rev. Wilbert Martin, Donna Martin, Nika King, Diaana Babnicova, Jillian Reeves, and Elizabeth Mitchell attend the premiere of "Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot" by Angel Studios at Linwood Dunn Theater in Los Angeles, Calif., on June 18, 2024. (Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for Angel Studios)

Jessamyn Dodd
Jessamyn Dodd

6/21/2024

Updated: 6/21/2024

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“Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot,” the newest film by Angel Studios, premiered on June 18 at the Linwood Dunn Theater at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Los Angeles.
On the red carpet, the film’s stars spoke to The Epoch Times about what drew them to their roles and the film’s important message of raising awareness about the foster care system in the United States.
Inspired by a true story, “Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot” chronicles the journey of the Rev. Wilbert Martin and his wife, Donna Martin, as they inspire their rural church to embrace children in the foster care system that nobody else would take.
By doing the seemingly impossible—adopting 77 children—this East Texas community demonstrated that with genuine and determined love, the battle for America’s most vulnerable can be won.
Twenty-two families adopted 77 of the most difficult-to-place children in the local foster care system. Seventy-six children were adopted between 1998 and 2000, with another adopted in 2011. The Martins have two biological children and adopted four more during this time period.
Actress Letitia Wright, who starred in Marvel’s “Black Panther” movies, was the executive producer for the film.
Actress Diaana Babnicova plays the character of “Terri” in the film.
She said her advice to children in the foster care system is to “keep on hoping, because it will get better.”
“We’re trying to change it so that everyone gets a home, everyone finds a loving family just like the Martins,” she said. “Even doing the smallest thing can change someone’s life and have such a big impact. So do the smallest thing.”

Honoring the Story

Mrs. Martin expressed her amazement at seeing her life portrayed on the screen.
Reflecting on adopting the children, she said there was “no way in the world I could have found any inspiration on my own—it is a God thing. The Lord spoke to us through the heavens.”
She said she was deeply moved to save children.
“Just a sound of hope when I heard him say ‘foster, adopt, give back.’”
Mrs. Martin, who comes from a large family, said she modeled her behavior after her nurturing and caring mother, who was her role model.
Mr. Martin advised people not to be afraid to take a chance on a foster child, and to step out in faith.
“If we can do it, you can do it,” he said. “We did it in Possum Trot, why can’t you do it here?”
Nika King, known for her role in HBO’s “Euphoria,” portrays Mrs. Martin in the film. She drew on her mother’s personal experience for the role.
“The script was very similar to my mom’s story. She was actually brought up in foster care and adopted by a pastor and his wife,” she said.
Ms. King explained that she spoke to her mother about her feelings of not knowing her biological mother and what it was like being in foster care.
“In ‘Euphoria’ I play a mother dealing with a kid addicted to drugs, and now I’m dealing with kids who are being abused,” she said about her roles as a mother on screen. Mrs. Martin gave Ms. King her seal of approval for her portrayal in the film.
Demetrius Grosse, who portrays Mr. Martin on screen, discussed the emotional challenges of his role.
“You fill your cup with good things and then you pour yourself out and you leave it all on the floor,” he said. “I'd love for people to come away from this film having a great experience where they do maybe cry. Maybe they laugh, maybe they cry tears of joy. Maybe they are inspired to change someone’s life and help a child have a home who may not otherwise.”
Mr. Grosse said he hopes the film “unifies us from a humanity standpoint,” noting that it takes one person to change the world. “Each one can teach one.”
Reflecting on his preparation, Mr. Grosse said he spent time with the family and that he also had some creativity in crafting the character. He strove to go beyond merely copying and imitating the reverend, instead infusing the character with his own unique interpretation.
Elizabeth Mitchell plays social worker Susan Ramsey in the film.
“You want to honor the person that you’re playing, and Susan was an extraordinary woman,” Ms. Mitchell said. “We can change things. I understand there is a dark side but at the same time there are some beautiful, loving families welcoming children out of pure goodness.”
Ms. Mitchell urged anyone in the foster care system, or who has been in the system in the past, to advocate for legislation to protect foster youth.
“I think when you have people making decisions for people in a situation who are not in that situation, I think it probably doesn’t go well,” she noted. On the graphic scenes of abuse, she remarked, “You show, don’t tell.”
David Andalman, the editor of the film, revealed that when he first read the script, he was moved to tears.
The actors, he said, made his job as an editor easy with their flawless performances.
“The actors did a wonderful job. Nika King, Demetrius Grosse, Elizabeth Mitchell, right on down the line, everyone delivered. When you have great performances, it makes it easier,” Mr. Andalman said.
“Pretty soon the movie is telling you what it wants,” he said, describing the film coming to life.
Costume designer Ellen Falguiere shared her approach, which started with research, going through photographs, building character boards, and creating a color palette for the actors.
Since the film takes place in the 1990s, she wanted to reflect the era accurately.
“The kids come from desperate situations so I wanted to dress them with aged clothes,” she said. She then shifted the color palette once the children are adopted in the film.

Raising Awareness

Actress Jen Lilley, known for her role on “Days of Our Lives” and who is a foster and adoptive mother herself, also attended the premiere.
“This small church adopted every child out of foster care in a 100-mile radius!” she exclaimed about the true story. “It’s going to shine a light on the 429,000 children that are currently in the United States foster care system.”
According to a 2020 report from the Center for the Rights of Abused Children, previously named Gen Justice, approximately 55 children disappear from the U.S. foster care system each day, and children in the foster care system are at greater risk of being forced into sex trafficking.
“The government makes a terrible parent,” Ms. Lilley said. She became emotional, saying that “if you really love Jesus, he looked towards brokenness. He did not turn a blind eye.”
The movie is slated for theatrical release on July 4.
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Jessamyn Dodd is an experienced TV news anchor, reporter, and digital journalist covering entertainment, politics, and crime.

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