La Deuda (The Debt) is a 15-minute short film from The Salvation Army’s Los Angeles-based multimedia team, Share Change. A finalist at the Miami Film Festival in 2020, it was acquired for distribution by HBO and now appears on all its streaming devices.

“We are tremendously blessed,” says Jeff Prahl, producer and director. “HBO has been the gold standard for decades, and it’s an incredible honour to have our film playing on HBO Max and HBO Latino.”

Fateful Decision
La Deuda is a fictional story inspired by Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant (see Matthew 18:21-35),” says Jeff, “but its setting, Colonia El Niño outside of Tijuana, Mexico, is essential to its fabric and characters. The family of our producer and co-writer, Maria Vera-Rood, lives there and assisted heavily with the production. The film was made with a lot of love, from the community to the talented and dedicated cast and crew from both sides of the border.”

The movie tells a story of Victor (Saul Martinez), a young boy living in a poor Mexican village. Caught in the middle of a family crisis, debt collectors threaten his father, Miguel (Paco Mufote), and Victor’s beloved goat, Isabel.

Victor, worried about his pet, decides to take matters into his own hands and goes to see Juan Pablo (Samuel Valdez), a disabled beggar, to demand he return the money Victor gave him only the day before. In the process, Juan gets hurt in an altercation.

Despite the dire situation, Victor’s father calmly tells him that God is good, giving him an assurance that things will work out. Suddenly, help arrives, and the debt is paid. Now Victor must make a decision. Should he take responsibility for his actions and ask Juan for forgiveness?

Uncooperative Goat
La Deuda is a coming-of-age tale,” says Jeff. “A pivotal time in a young person’s life, a story of a boy and his love for his goat.” The universal theme of love lets the viewers bond with the main characters living in a small Mexican village. The setting is essential to the fabric of the story.

“A lot of people wouldn’t normally visit this area,” says Jeff, “and we tried to tell a story in the most authentic way possible.”

The team decided to shoot the film in Spanish. “I feel very proud about being a Mexican-American,” says Maria. “I’m also proud of where I come from and where my roots are. I thought it’d be a cool opportunity to incorporate my family into the production. This film wouldn’t be possible without their help. The location was amazing and the people in the village were kind and supportive. They stood by the project.”

Filming with an animal brings its own challenges. “It was the funniest, most chaotic experience,” Jeff laughs. “We rented the goat and its mother from a local farmer and drove it in our van. It never did what we wanted it to do.”

Biblical Truth Today
Maria wanted to focus on biblical truth that applies today as it did 2,000 years ago and to inspire the audience to think about generosity, forgiveness and redemption.

“At times, people who don’t have as much give more generously than people who are richer,” says Maria. “We wanted to show that, especially with Miguel, the father.”

As Jesus taught about forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-35, Maria elaborates on the main theme of the story.

“Sometimes you mean well, want to help out, but then life happens, and you make wrong decisions,” says Maria.

The film portrays the beauty of God’s love and forgiveness. “You want to figure things out on your own, even though God said He has everything taken care of, and that things will work out,” she continues. “But we are human. We’re not perfect, but we have His love.”

Paid in Full
We all must learn not only how to forgive but also how to ask for forgiveness for our mistakes and shortcomings.

“I hope that people are able to relate to the story,” continues Maria, “and that they’re able to be kind to themselves. I feel we live in a society where we’re so hard on ourselves and others. It’s OK to make mistakes, and it’s OK to apologize and accept forgiveness.”

No matter what difficulties we face, what mistakes we have made or the kind of sin we have committed, God is greater. Our heavenly Father told us through His Son, Jesus, that we need to forgive others, so that we can receive His forgiveness. We often make it too difficult, trying to earn His approval, but the truth is, the debt has been paid.

God’s forgiveness is only a prayer away, offered as a free gift that no one can earn. He offers His unconditional love, through His Son, Jesus Christ, to every one of us.

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