Mozel Sanders’s name and gospel music are as familiar as the Thanksgiving Dinner for the needy he started almost 40 years ago.
The story of Mozel’s impact and life will be the subject of a locally produced and filmed documentary at the Heartland Film Festival, named “MozeL”. Directed by local independent film maker Kim Stephens and produced by Carmel resident, Michael Ruggiero, the documentary explores Mozel as an everyday man who accomplished extraordinary things.
“The story of Mozel reads like a novel, and at the end it’s so nice to get there and be able to say that there are good people and good thing in our world,” said Ruggiero.
Mozel Sanders was an Indianapolis fixture until his death in 1988. The pastor of the Mount Vernon Baptist Church and local radio DJ, Mozel was a gospel singer, Civil Rights activist and established the first city-wide charitable Thanksgiving Dinner in 1974. The film “MozeL” focuses on a motto surrounding his life: “do not look down on a man unless you’re willing to pick him up.”
The idea for the film came out of a lunch between Ruggiero and Sanders’s son, Roosevelt. During the lunch Ruggiero felt so compelled by the story, he and Roosevelt Sanders agreed to make the film then and there. Afterwards Ruggiero sought to find a local filmmaker who could, on a small budget, could really tell the story of Mozel. He found Kim Stephens through Mozel’s daughter.
“I love telling people stories,” said Stephens. An IPS teacher and Indianapolis resident, she said she knew well about the extraordinary Thanksgiving dinner, and was even more impressed to learn about Mozel throughout the process. “Even though he’s no longer here, what he started and his legacy are. As I worked on this film I was so surprised to find out how everyday he was, even though he was rebellious and active in the community.”
Nearly three and a half years later of hunting for interviews, seeking out rare footage of Mozel, editing and writing, and a scare that the film had been lost, the project is complete and ready for its premiere during the Heartland Film Festival.
“We can all learn from Mozel,” said Stephens. “He didn’t care about race. When one person struggled, he was there to extend his hand and give back to others.”
MozeL premieres Oct. 17th at 4:45 p.m. at the Castleton AMC Theatre and will also be shown Oct. 20 at 2:30pm at Showplace AMC 17 Theatre. Tickets are available at www.trulymovingpictures.org