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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Interview with Filmmaker Michael Landon, Jr.
by Betty Jo Tucker

During a recent interview for ReelTalk, director Michael Landon, Jr., talked enthusiastically about The Last Sin Eater, which is scheduled for DVD release on May 15. Noted for taking on uplifting films with important messages, Landon decided to become involved with this project as the result of a suggestion from his sister. “She told me I had to read something by Francine Rivers, who’s one of today’s finest Christian authors, and I hadn’t read anything by her,” he explained. “The title just stuck out, and when I found out it concerned a Celtic ritual from Wales and Scotland, I read it and was totally captivated by the author’s ability to weave her story about a young girl seeking redemption, and the universal theme of the story -- what does one do with the burden of one’s past? -- definitely interested me.”

The Last Sin Eater, set in Appalachia in the mid-1800s, depicts what happens when 10-year-old Cadi watches a mysterious man “absolve” her grandmother’s sins by eating bread and wine at her grave. The youngster wants the same redemption, but while she’s still alive. While searching for the Sin Eater, she discovers a dark secret with powerful implications for her family and community. Because the story focuses on a child, Landon feels fortunate to have found Liana Liberato, who plays this key character. “There are only so many Dakota Fannings out there, and we were very lucky to find Liana,” he said. “We knew we had to count on a 10-year-old girl to carry the film, and when Liana walked in and read for us, we realized we’d found our Cadi.”   

Although facing multiple challenges including a tight shooting schedule, child labor laws (“but I’m glad they are in place”) and the physical elements of filming in the mountains, Landon had all sorts of enjoyable times and moments while making The Last Sin Eater. “One of the exciting parts was finding the right actors to bring our characters to life,” he declared. “For example, the scenes between Liana Liberato and Henry Thomas were quite special to me, as were many others.”

Thomas portrays a Man of God who goes to a small Appalachian community, hoping to bring the Truth to the Welsh immigrants there. Landon calls Thomas “an absolute gentleman with a humbleness of heart who never acts like he’s better than anyone else.”

Landon, son of the late television legend Michael Landon, has over 20 years of experience in moviemaking. He’s served as a film loader, assistant cameraman, stedicam operator, director of photography, apprentice film editor, production assistant, and actor.  He’s developed and/or produced, directed and written screenplays for Fox, CBS, NBC, Disney, TriStar, Cinar and Hallmark. However, Landon’s major interest is directing. “I started writing in order to get to directing,” he admitted.

In 2005, Landon and his partner Brian Bird formed their own production company, Believe Pictures, and they now have a multi-picture deal with FoxFaith.  

What’s the most important thing Landon wants people to know about him and his work? “That what I strive to do is have my work always pointing to God.”

The Last Sin Eater shows how carefully and creatively Landon accomplishes his worthy goal.   

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