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Local News

Joliet director’s new film reflects his strong faith

Joseph Awinongya stands in his boxing gym in Joliet.
Joseph Awinongya stands in his boxing gym in Joliet.

JOLIET – An inspirational, faith-based film that was shot mostly in Joliet is scheduled to be released Jan. 28 on DVD by Lionsgate Films.

“Dreams” is the story of four people who seek to overcome their pasts and achieve their dreams in unusual and emotionally trying circumstances.

Its director, Joel Kapity of Joliet said during its premiere at a theater outside of Detroit that many audience members left the theater with tears in their eyes, which is the effect he hoped for in making the movie.

He said the film forces people to talk about the situations portrayed and offers tools to heal and forgive.

“We didn’t want it to be cheesy,” Kapity said. “So many faith-based films aren’t real.”

One character in the movie is a singer who’s confronting the psychological damage from being sexually abused by her father, while another character is a former gang member who’s trying to lead a law-abiding life after prison. The other main characters are a dancer and a boxing trainer trying to reconnect with his daughter after a life on drugs.

One cast member is from Joliet, Joseph Awinongya, who plays the trainer, Paalo, a character close to who he is in real life. Awinongya recently sold his gym in Joliet, which is now Round 1 Boxing Gym.

When Kapity approached him about the role, Kapity was surprised to learn that Awinongya also has an estranged daughter.

Awinongya left his home country of Ghana, where his daughter was born, to pursue a boxing career in the U.S. with Don King in 1999.

In recent years, he has been trying to reconnect with his 14-year-old daughter. And also like Paalo, Awinongya runs the gym as an outlet to keep kids off the street and out of trouble.

One of Paalo’s fighters in “Dreams,” Osumamu Adama, is a boxer who’s training at Round 1 and plays himself in the movie. In the film, Adama is training for a championship match. In real life, he’s now training to challenge middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin on Feb. 1 in Monte Carlo.

Awinongya said the film is very emotional.

“I don’t like watching myself [on the screen],” he said. “But for this movie, I sat down and cried.”

Kapity said “Dreams” was developed over 10 years, starting from a conversation with his best friend, Marchello Lee, who plays the dancer in the film.

He said one of the biggest obstacles to making the film was raising money for its nearly $250,000 budget. But investors gradually began providing the funds he needed.

Although he considers “Dreams” a faith-based film, it is not overtly Christian and people of other faiths will enjoy it, Kapity said. But he took its messages about forgiveness and faith from the Bible.

“I believe this film leads you to God,” Kapity said.

“Dreams” is the second film for the 32-year-old director. His first, “Blessed and Cursed,” is a Christian gospel movie that was released in 2010.

Kapity said he’s a fan of some non-Christian films but believes his purpose is to direct faith-based films.

“Life is short,” he said. “Everything I do, I want it to lead people to God. Otherwise, it doesn’t feel like it’s worth doing.”

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