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The just-released 'Freedom’s Path' looks through a different lens on freedom during the Civil War

Freedoms Path LLC
Freedom's Path is now playing nationwide.

“For many of us, this is the biggest thing that we've done in having a theatrical release is quite a feat.”

The just-released film Freedom’s Path – telling the story of runaway Civil War soldier who encounters a secret community of freed slaves – is more than a reflection of history. It’s also making its own history. 100 percent of the film’s profits from its opening weekend are going to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“It’s never about making a bunch of money,” said producer AJ Winslow. “We’re passionate about making films, working together and telling stories that hopefully have an impact.”
Winslow, an alum of Boise’s Capitol High School, visits with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about his film and its unique lens on freedom at a troubling time when the nation was trying to brand itself with liberty.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. I'm George Prentice. Good morning. A.J, Winslow is here. His friends know him as an alum of Capitol High School in Boise. The film industry knows him as a director, cameraman and producer of the just released Freedom's Path in theaters now. AJ Winslow, good morning.

AJ WINSLOW: Good morning. Thanks for having me, George.

PRENTICE: How did Freedom's Path come onto your radar?

WINSLOW: It came onto my radar through the writer director Brett Smith, who's become a really close friend of mine. He and my producing partner had produced some short films in the past, one of which I helped produce. And we kind of have a tight knit of talented filmmakers up here in Washington State. And Brett brought this project to us after he'd been working on it for about seven or eight years, trying to raise funding after he had written the script and revising the script. And it came to us still in need of financing and far before production. So, it's been about a five or six year process for myself.

PRENTICE: Talk to me about… well, freedom, right? Here you have a story about a nation trying to brand itself with freedom and liberty, yet denying that freedom to so many. And therein has this tension of the story.

AJ Winslow
AJ Winslow

WINSLOW: Yeah. Yeah. You know, there's a lot of films that have been made about this era around these topics, around the Civil War, the Underground Railroad. And many of those stories usually tell the story of someone we know or a true historical figure, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln. This story actually tells the story of freed African Americans during this time period. There were about 250,000 freed African Americans during the Civil War that chose to live in the South during that time because that was where they're from and also to help others get to the north and find freedom. So, this this story is really centered around a union soldier who thinks he knows what he's fighting for but flees from battle is in a rescued by a group of these runaway slaves and through his bond with a freed runaway slave, ultimately learns what freedom is, what he'd been fighting for. And it's really a story about the bond between these two individuals who can overcome their preconceived notions and grow as people.

PRENTICE: Can you talk a little bit about this space that we're in? Here we are, 2023 and where this film lands and where we are as a divided nation today?

WINSLOW: Yeah. You know, this film has been about 12 or 13 years in the making, and we filmed it before COVID. We filmed it before Black Lives Matter. But these themes and topics, unfortunately, have continued to be relevant today. A lot of people will see this film and they'll think that it's a slave film or they'll think that it's some woke film. And in fact, there is no enslaved person documented in the film at all. And again, it's really a film about people overcoming their preconceived notions, seeing each other for humans and just understanding We all come from different places and we can all love, we can all be loved. And until we do that, I think we'll remain divided, whether it's this nation or others around the world. So, you know, I hope that stories like this will continue to be told and it can help us all just grow in our mindsets and start to learn to appreciate one another for just the fact that we're all human beings.

PRENTICE: We're talking with AJ Winslow, a producer of the just released Freedom's Path. The folks who don't do what you do think that a measure of success is based on box office metrics. But how do you…or how are you measuring success with this project?

WINSLOW: Yeah, I mean, for a lot of this for a lot of us on this project, it's sort of a launch pad for our careers. For many of us, this is the biggest thing that we've done in having a theatrical release is is quite a feat. 100% of the film's profits from this past opening weekend are going to the Historically Black Colleges and Universities. So about eight underfunded HBCUs around the country will receive those profits for their film and arts programs and then 10% thereafter. So, everything else the film makes in box office will 10% of that will go to those schools. So we're really happy to be giving back. And really for us, playing in the theaters is just a way to help facilitate word of mouth, a way to market this film and get it out there and hopefully other people can see it. And then it allows us to to leverage a better streaming deal and just continue to grow the film through any avenue that we can. But. You know, it's never been about making a bunch of money, you know, storytellers. We're just passionate about making films and working together and telling stories that hopefully have an impact.

PRENTICE: Well, the film is Freedom's Path. And for that, congratulations go to AJ  Winslow. And can I ask: can I assume that there are multiple projects in your inbox?

WINSLOW: There are there are multiple projects in my inbox. There's also some projects in our outbox. We have a documentary on University of Washington's head coach, Don James. It was a real sort of referred to as the godfather of modern-day football. We've got a TV show and some other film projects that we're working on. But yeah, really, really looking forward to this next year and the coming years and all the projects that we can hopefully produce and release to the world.

PRENTICE: Well, for now, enjoy these days and weeks and months as more Americans enjoy your film. And he is A.J. Winslow and the film Is Freedom's Path in theaters now. A.J. Winslow, thanks for giving us some time this morning.

WINSLOW: Thank you so much, George. I appreciate it.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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