United States / 100 min / 2015


for best actor, supporting actress, cinematography, film under $500k

Set in the distinctive world of storefront churches, and based on actual events, Free in Deed depicts one man’s attempts to perform a miracle. When a single mother brings her young boy to church for healing, this lonely pentecostal minister is forced to confront the seemingly incurable illness of the child and his own demons.

Shot in Memphis, Tennessee with actors David Harewood (Homeland) and Edwina Findley (The Wire), together with local churches and resident non-actors. Produced by Votiv and Greyshack Films, supported by NZFC.



"If Bresson had set “Diary of a Country Priest” in an African-American storefront church in Memphis, it might have turned out like Jake Mahaffy’s challenging spiritual odyssey. Through its oblique, impressionistic, and intense narrative, Mahaffy’s film is a cathartic rite in itself." - Ty Burr/Peter Keogh, The Boston Globe

"Free in Deed is without question one of the most accomplished and vital independent dramas of recent memory." - Michael Tully, Hammer to Nail

"...an achingly raw and tender portrait of two spiritually isolated individuals for whom the laying on of hands is a surrogate for some desperately needed human contact." - Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times

"A visionary achievement... the first in recent memory to confront the issue of Faith so eloquently through the prism of Race and Class..." - Evan Louison, Hammer to Nail

"Jake Mahaffy's impressionistic and distressing "Free in Deed" tells the story of a single mother... who's willing to do anything she can to help her son. Immersive to the extreme, Mahaffy's film takes viewers inside a world where tragedy and hope blur together into a cacophony of desperation." - David Ehrlich, Indiewire

"Free in Deed is a fever pitch of prayer, praise, torment, and attempted healings... The end credits rolled to an audibly stunned audience." - J. Ryan Parker, Patheos

​ "Jake Mahaffy’s film dares, like France’s great director, Robert Bresson, to raise the most fundamental of spiritual questions…" - Gerald Peary, Artsfuse

"Mahaffy’s film offers an illuminating immersion into the rarely-depicted world of storefront churches... A deserving winner of top honors in Venice’s Horizons strand, this jagged, productively provocative work needs every such plaudit to convince skittish distributors of its conversation-piece potential." - Guy Lodge, Variety

"The gripping drama finds experimental filmmaker Jake Mahaffy maintaining a distinctive aesthetic slant, at once pensive and visceral. With its immersive textures and refusal to wrap-up a charged and complex subject in tidy messages, it could make art-house inroads in the hands of a sensitive distributor." - Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter

"Filmed in an observational cinéma vérité style, there is a verisimilitude to "Free in Deed" that the audience gets lost in, so much that one forgets that what you're watching is actually a scripted fictionalized account realized by actors... delivering wonderfully subtle and effective performances..." - Tambay Obenson, Shadow and Act

"Mahaffy's uncompromising approach, and the quality of its performances, make it a rare and valuable testament: to the terrible danger of believing in miracles, and to the cruelty of a world that might make such belief necessary." - Jessica Kiang, The Playlist

"...the movie features extraordinary performances... whose essences were somehow magically transferred by the cinema gods to this singularly rewarding picture." - Jonathan Demme

72nd Venice Biennale (Orizzonti Best Film award), SXSW, AFI, Malatya (Best Film prize), Geneva, Stockholm (Best Film nom), Rotterdam, Kerala, Nashville, Beijing, Sydney, Melbourne, NZIFF, Montclair, Boston IFF, Tallgrass, CPH Pix Denmark, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Denver Starz, Jacob Burns Film Centre, BAM Cinematek, Cayman, Seattle, Munich, Memphis, and others...​​

Supported by
Creative Capital, Sundance Institute, New Zealand Film Commission, Rockefeller Media Arts, Cinefondation, Guggenheim Foundation, LEF Foundation, Annenberg Foundation and others..