LOS ANGELES, California –
Switching career choices isn’t ideally what one hopes for, but sometimes when you’re dead-on passionate about a vision in mind, you have to simply listen to your heart and take that leap of faith. For Mark Young – a man who had no experience in the movie business – a vision that started out one day in the mid-90s when he met Reverend Dr. Charles Marks at his local church was something he was determined to see come to fruition. Even if it did take 15 years in the making, and even if it was his first-time ever directing.
“The Least Among You” is inspired by an incredible true story about a black college graduate Richard Kelly, played by Cedric Sanders, who finds himself caught up in the 1965 Watts riots. And is then forced to serve probation at a Christian seminary as its first black student.
A college “gardener” and janitor, Samuel Benton (academy-award winner Louis Gossett Jr.) quickly becomes a mentor and somebody Kelly can turn to, while Professor Kate Allison (Lauren Holly) – a former missionary who worked in Africa – also becomes a spiritual adviser.
Enrolled at an all-white seminary, Richard Kelly makes it his mission to try and educate others about racism while embarking on a journey to follow his heart. The latter of which Mark is all too familiar with.
For this first-time director, when I asked Mark what motivated him to do The Least Among You, he explained it was Reverend Marks’ speech at his church – portrayed as Richard Kelly in the movie – about overcoming racism that moved him and stuck with him over the years.
“We got together and he began telling me about Samuel – a janitor he first saw pulling books out of the dumpster. Their relationship and journey, about moving to a spiritual place and taking risks was something I was going through myself,” says Mark.
Mark admits much of the movie’s storyline was true to form as to what actually happened in real life. Reverend Marks was, in fact, the first black student at this Christian seminary and he did develop a blossoming friendship with Samuel, the janitor and later faithful mentor.
Although initially writing the screenplay in 1995, Mark was only given the okay to shoot the movie years later, and in 2005 he called Reverend Marks and asked for his support and feedback. A collaborative experience between two friends is what ultimately helped bring The Least Among You to a wide audience.
Many who haven’t seen the movie wonder where the title comes from. It’s actually from a line in the Bible’s New Testament: “Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.” A title that refers to both Samuel and Richard Kelly’s transformative friendship, as well as how Kelly was essentially the least of his class, socially speaking.
A scene in The Least Among You where Richard Kelly jumps out of bed in a state of panic, after experiencing a nightmare has Samuel advising him to “go to the darkness.” Because, as Mark, explains, “anybody who’s accomplished anything had to go toward the darkness first.” He continues, “Our society is so much feeling-based that I think a lot of people miss where they need to go because feelings of fear well up.” But that is where mentors come in, as was in the case of Samuel, who help guide us along the right track.
Mark hopes that viewers understand you can’t “drown in your troubles.” Every person is a “unique creation with a unique destiny.” We all have our own individual calling, that is meant to both bless us and others, he says.
In 2009, when the The Least Among You was finally premiered at the Palm Film Festival to a live audience, Mark says the public’s response was so positive, he felt like all those hard years of work and holding onto his vision had finally paid off.
He explains, “My faith and seeing this thing through were wrapped into each other. It was hard for me to let go of the script and put it back on the shelf. I just knew God had never said ‘stop.'”
Now with a future television series of The Least Among You possibly currently in the works, Mark knows there is absolutely nothing he cannot do. He didn’t know it then, but what started out as a bold career change in the 90s ultimately lead this first-time director’s to his destiny. Much in the same manner as Reverend Marks’ experience at an all-white seminary brought him to his own personal calling. They say God works in mysterious ways, and both Mark and Reverend Marks can attest to that.
**NOTE: The Least Among You DVD is now available through Walmart or Amazon.com.
The Least Among You Official Website –
The Least Among You – on Amazon –