New film 'Redemption' portrays forgiveness in Old West

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PROVO -- In 1862, a French immigrant named Jean Baptiste was convicted of grave robbing in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. He was sentenced to exile on Antelope Island, which was Fremont Island at the time. If you have never heard this story, you are not alone, but it's true.

Stories about the Old West, the Utah Territory abound in books, movies and folklore and some have a lot more truth to them than others. A new film, "Redemption," based on the little-known story of Baptiste in the Utah Territory poses many questions: Does the punishment fit the crime? How long does it take to forgive? And on this Easter weekend, is redemption real?

"He had to continue to be punished because of their need to punish him, (which is) I guess another thing that made Jean so deserving of redemption," said David Stephens, who played Henry Heath, the officer who arrested Baptiste, in the film. "Someone's got to forgive him."

In the film, Heath took Baptiste to Antelope Island and also takes him food and water. Eventually, each man has something to offer the other.

"Baptiste is where Heath begins to find a way back to loving himself and, maybe then, allowing others to love him," Stephens said.

Heath's great-great-grandson, also Henry Heath, says the film takes some liberties. The real Heath did not have a dark past, but his family knows how he felt about Baptiste. Heath arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in September 1847, as an immigrant Latter-day Saint from England.

"He would have been a man who was conscientious, did his duty and he, himself, expressed that had Baptiste actually robbed his daughter's grave, he would have shot him," Heath said.

The cast includes some well-known Hollywood actors. Edward Hermann, Margot Kidde and Barry Corbin star alongside a well-known Utahn, Alex Kirry of KSL, who has a cameo role.

"You get out of the end, I think, the quality of forgiveness and wanting to improve yourself," Kirry said.

"Redemption" was made with a small budget, and the crew was comprised of 170 BYU film students. It opened in area theatres Thursday night, rated PG for some violence and language.


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