“Live to Forgive” opens with the 911 transcripts from a fatal day in February 1986 when Denise Cassidy’s then-husband beat her with a baseball bat, leaving her young son Dean Smith to wrestle with anger, resentment and bitterness for more than two decades.
Smith was 12 years old, a sixth-grade student at Enumclaw’s Southwood Elementary School preparing for camp, when he was pulled from class and brought to his mom’s hospital bedside.
“There are certain days in your life where you remember every detail,” Smith said.
He never imagined the path his life would take after that day.
“Live To Forgive” is the story of Smith’s journey through the dark years of masking his anger to building a relationship with his stepfather again. The story also follows the emotions of his family and friends as he faces his destiny, reuniting with the man who changed his life forever.
Written and directed by Skip Moody and produced by Lenville O’Donnell, the 82-minute, award-winning, feature documentary is narrated by Smith. It’s been described by reviewers as compelling, powerful and inspiring.
The Dove Foundation gave it its highest rating in June. The film has also been a winner at the Holywood Christian Film Festival, International Christian Film Festival, Thin Line Film Festival, Kansas City FilmFest and Gideon Film Festival.
The documentary carries the same name as Smith’s Enumclaw-based Live to Forgive ministry, which will host the hometown premier of the movie Sept. 24 and 25 at The Chalet Theatre.
Show times are 7 p.m. Sept. 24 and 6 p.m. Sept. 25. Additional showings will be added if needed.
Tickets, $15 apiece or $12 each for groups purchasing four or more, are available beginning Sept. 1 at several local churches and at livetoforgive.com. Seating is limited and tickets must be purchased in advance.
Tickets includes a speaking time led by Smith, who was recently named to Tacoma Business Examiner’s Forty Under 40, the movie and post-movie discussion.
For Plateau residents who remember the headlines, Smith shares his perspective of the day his stepfather murdered his mother and how he moved on with his life. His stepfather was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Smith went to live with the pastor at Enumclaw’s Wabash Presbyterian Church.
Plateau residents will recognize many of the places since filming was done here, in Seattle and Tennessee. It includes a number of familiar faces who helped Smith put the pieces of his life back together, as well as clips from Hornet football and basketball games where Smith was a standout athlete.
“My hope is that this movie and ministry opens up that forgiveness is possible,” Smith said. “I’m hoping this opens up a response of restoring relationships and relationships with Jesus and God.
“For me forgiveness has opened up for me the greatest of blessings in my life.”
It took a long time for Smith to reach that point.
For years, Smith hid the anger, bitterness and resentment, drowning it with drugs and alcohol.
“It was like holding on to poison,” he said. “I wanted to kill this man.
“I got to a place where my life was going down and I needed to give this to God.”
Smith found his calling as a minister and decided to let his anger free.
“I finally got sick and tired of carrying the burden around,” he said.
He asked God to help him forgive his stepfather. It took some time, then he realized forgiveness had a broader definition. His stepfather’s suicide attempt triggered a deeper response.
Although the movie is definitely about Jesus, Smith said, it’s not “super preachy.”
“I’m a pastor. My heart is always to share this testimony of what God can do,” he said.
The film will also be released in Australia, New Zealand and Korea, and is planned as part of a national church screening campaign with distribution through Christian retail stores.
A trailer of the movie is available for viewing at livetoforgive.com.