The winter holiday season is a time that so many of us look forward to months in advance. Whether it’s the annual gatherings with loved ones or the visual feasts of decked halls and window displays that sparkle and delight throughout neighborhoods and department stores, the world seems to smile a lot more around this time of year. Undoubtedly holiday movies play a significant role in lifting our spirits.
However, as we approach this Christmas, there are a lot fewer smiles than usual. We’ve been thrust into the throes of a global pandemic for nearly a year. For many, it has yielded devastating results – a culmination of fear, nation-wide unemployment, poverty, sickness, death, and hopelessness. Messages of optimism are needed now more than ever, and a new film, Hope For The Holidays, delivers and shines through with a heartfelt story of faith, love, and redemption.
Hope For The Holidays features Best Actress Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe Best Actress winner, Sally Kirkland, as Georgia. A terrific cast joins her in the film, including the ruggedly handsome George Stults (7th Heaven), who stars as Danny, Georgia’s son. Danny commits a brazen crime to help his dying mother, setting the stage for a story of accountability, hope, reconciliation, and change in various intertwined characters’ lives.
As I watched Hope For The Holidays, I was moved by the performances, especially Kirkland’s who plays Georgia with warmth and vulnerability that reminded me of Geraldine Page’s Oscar-winning role in Trip to Bountiful. But what made viewing the film all the more personally rewarding for me was that I had just unexpectedly become Facebook friends with Kirkland days prior. After I responded to a comment she made on a mutual friend’s post of his artwork, we connected. Then via DM, we had a lovely conversation about her life and amazing, decades-long career in Hollywood. She also mentioned her new holiday film, set to debut Thanksgiving day on multiple movie streaming platforms. Of course, once she mentioned it, I was intrigued and wanted to know more.
We spoke at great length about the project, and I learned it’s based on a short story by a real-life former Hells Angels leader named George Christie. The original short story was called “The Talking Tree.” Christie describes it as “an inspirational Christmas story which was inspired by my time in solitary confinement.”
Now brought to life as a film, and aptly retitled, Hope For The Holidays has the feel-good spirit of a Hallmark Channel movie. Yet, it’s also not afraid to step out of its sweetness, injecting gritty prison scenes, an ensemble of sympathetic characters, and a seemingly despicable antagonist who the audience will likely and deservedly hate.
The film’s Director, Ricky Borba, adapted Christie’s story to reflect his relationship with his own mother. Borba’s mother, like Georgia in the movie, had also battled cancer. In an interview with Gold Country Media, Borba shared that some of Georgia’s dialogue was based on actual words shared between him and his mother,
“With the permission of the writer and producer, I was able to rewrite the dialogue of Georgia in the script to reflect the real-life conversations I was having with my own mother during her battle with cancer,” Borba said. “Most of what Georgia says in the film, and especially the conversations she has with Danny, are conversations I had with my mom.
Kirkland understood and honored the personal connection Borba had to the character of Georgia. I watched a round table discussion on Youtube where she and the cast discussed the film, and I was touched when she shared that it was a cathartic experience to play this role. She has no children in real life. Though she’s played a mother before on screen, there was something distinctly different about playing this mother and bonding with Stults to bring Georgia and Danny’s message of hope and healing to life.
In a recent conversation, Kirkland shared that she began working in the arts at age 16. Profoundly spiritual and purposeful in her continuing journey, she is now 79 and has not slowed down from acting one bit. As I was preparing this article, she revealed she was about to start a new film-short and then begin work on another project after that. Kirkland’s project choices have always been deliberate, but more so than ever today. She’s not only an actress, but Sally Kirkland is also an ordained Reverend (since 1976) in the Church of The Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness (msia.org) – which she clarifies as being all-inclusive; there’s no fire and brimstone. faith based”. In Kirkland’s practice, Christ sits at the head of the Church, but it is non-denominational, teaches SOUL TRANSCENDENCE… and works with Christ consciousness and the Mystical Traveler Consciousness. It’s not a religion, but rather it’s a spiritual movement.
This enlightened path inspires Kirkland to take on films with purpose, social consciousness, and messages she feels the world needs to hear,
“The idea of playing such a strong mother and son story was what attracted me to the script. It’s a film for all generations. It’s the kind of film we need nowadays that touched my heart.” The film’s primary message is of hope, but the underlying story is the redemption and rebirth of Danny. His actions at the beginning of the film are of fear, disobedience, and going to jail for a long time, but by the end of the film, Danny receives forgiveness, a family and many blessings.”
Watch Sally Kirkland discuss her new Christmas-themed film, “Hope for the holidays”
As for my new friendship with the incomparable Sally Kirkland, I can honestly say I already adore her, and I’m in awe of her storied-life. But I’m fascinated not just by the musings of a Hollywood star, reflecting on how she began as a young model and muse of Andy Warhol, or her close friendship with mentor Shelley Winters, her dear friendship with Rufus Wainwright, or her 1988 Best Actress Oscar Nomination up against Meryl Streep, Holly Hunter, and Glen Close and Cher – who took home the statue for ‘Moonstruck.’ Kirkland’s nomination was for her brilliant work in “Anna.” The film in which Kirkland plays the title character tells the story of a once-famous actress from what was then Czechoslovakia, and how she adjusts to life now, passed her Hollywood prime. A young Paulina Porizkova co-stars in the touching movie as Anna’s unexpected protégé.
Watch Oscar Best Actress Nominee Sally Kirkland in the 1987 Trailer for ‘Anna’:
Don’t get me wrong; all those stories are great, and it’s a fun privilege and honor to be on the other end of the phone, hearing her delicious tales with my mouth open like, “Sally Wow!” Yes, she’s had incredible experiences in entertainment – BUT, there is so much more to Sally Kirkland.
I also discovered she’s a beautiful humanitarian who has championed causes for equality her whole life and who, for eight years, selflessly served as a caretaker for friends and associates who were suffering from cancer and/or HIV/AIDS. She’s the real deal when it comes to acts of compassion, and she’s on a mission to spread love and light in a world that can sometimes be very dim.
Sally Kirkland’s portrayal of Georgia in Hope for the Holidays is part of that mission … and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Well done Sally Kirkland, cast and crew.
‘Hope For The Holidays’ is available for streaming online on Amazon Prime Video
Other streaming platforms TBD. Watch the trailer here: