Each time his new movie appears on the big screen, former state Sen. Brooks Douglass relives the fateful night his parents were murdered and his life was forever changed.
The movie "Heaven's Rain" faithfully conveys the rage he felt toward the two men convicted of the killings, along with the pain and anguish he experienced after his parents' deaths.
But the film also brings to life Douglass' loving relationship with his preacher father and his soft-spoken mother who always had a song on her lips.
In the re-enactment of the family's happier times, "Heaven's Rain" proves it isn't just about the 1979 murders of the Rev. Richard and Marilyn Douglass.
And that's how Brooks Douglass, 46, planned it.
"A lot of people will be surprised that it's not really a crime story," he said during a recent interview in Oklahoma City.
"It's a story about a family. It's a story about a brother and sister who go through a struggle and try to find peace in their lives."
A movie premiere event for "Heaven's Rain" will be tonight at Science Museum Oklahoma. Douglass said the movie will open for the public at the 89er Theater in Kingfisher and Harkins Bricktown 16 in Oklahoma City on Friday.
The movie was filmed in several locations in Oklahoma including the state Capitol building, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and the Governor's Mansion (in a scene featuring Gov. Brad Henry). Other scenes were filmed in the green jungles of Brazil, where the Douglasses served as Southern Baptist missionaries. At the time of his death, Richard Douglass was senior pastor of Putnam City Baptist Church in northwest Oklahoma City.
Brooks Douglass, who now lives in Los Angeles, said he always hoped to see the movie make it to the big screen by fall 2010, but other people questioned whether it would happen.
Douglass and the movie's director, Paul Brown, co-wrote the screenplay, and Douglass produced the film with his own funds and money received from donors who believed in his dream to share his family's story. He said various film companies over the years have wanted to bring the story to life, but he didn't feel comfortable with their treatment of it. For some, financial backing was shaky, or other concerns came up.
The movie depicts the October 1979 night that two men shot to death Richard and Marilyn Douglass at their rural home near Kingfisher. Brooks Douglass, then 16, and his sister, Leslie, 12, survived also being shot. Brooks and Leslie went on to testify at the murder trials of the two men, Glen Burton Ake and Steven Hatch, who were charged with their parents' deaths. Ake and Hatch were each convicted of the murders and sentenced to death. Hatch was executed in August 1996, but Ake, the triggerman, got a new trial and was given life sentences.
The bulk of the film, however, chronicles the lives of Brooks and Leslie Douglass after the murders.
Filming final moments emotional
Douglass said the worst part of making the film was filming the murder scene, particularly since he portrayed his father, Richard.
He said worst of all was filming the final part of the scene and realizing that he was re-enacting his father's last, tragic moments on Earth.
"It really turned out to be an emotional moment," Douglass said.
"This was the one time in my life that something was much harder than what I thought it would be."
Douglass said he heard the term "closure" often in the days after production wrapped for "Heaven's Rain."
People wondered whether he had found it or if it had found him during the making of the film.
Douglass said he's unsure about finding closure, but he does know that his faith, the faith so carefully nurtured by his parents, has helped guide him to what he feels is a sense of justice and peace.
"I don't know if you ever get over something like this," he said.
"I doubt that there's a day that goes by that I don't think about it, but I also think I've tried to deal with it in a way that my faith has taught me, in a way that my parents taught me."
And he hopes moviegoers will find helpful and hopeful messages throughout the film.
"Too often, I think, there's a tendency to hold onto what happens, to hold a grudge that hurts us more than other person (can)," Douglass said.
"Ultimately, we have to move on — not forgetting our loved ones or forgetting what happened — and live our lives to the fullest. This is what I had to do."
Did you know?
The title of Brooks Douglass' new film "Heaven's Rain" came from movie director Paul Brown's citing of a passage in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice": "The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."
Douglass said with his knowledge of the Bible, he knew the heart of the literary passage is rooted in the words of Jesus and therefore a fitting premise for his film: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:44-45).