Look up "Darren Grant" on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), and you won't learn much about the young director, whose first feature film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, opened in theaters last week. IMDb doesn't have a bio on Grant, but he reveals a bit of his background in his "Diary of a First-Time Director" at the Mad Black Woman official site. He apparently had a career directing music videos and commercials before his father first introduced him to Tyler Perry's plays. It wasn't long before he met Perry and the two clicked, and Perry hired Grant to direct the film, based on Perry's popular play of the same name.

Grant says that working alongside Perry "was truly an honor," and that "we all had the same vision of creating a movie that showcased our people [African-Americans] in a different light. This would be a defining moment in black cinema that fed our current social consciousness. This would be a film … that took you on a journey of emotions and was visually captivating and ultimately led back to family and forgiveness." (Indeed, the film's official subtitle reads: "Time Heals the Heart. Faith Heals the Rest.")

Director Darren Grant filming on the set

Director Darren Grant filming on the set

You can read more about the plot and the film in our review.

We caught up with Grant recently, shortly before the film opened, and asked him about the movie's redemptive qualities.

This film is very redemptive, and unashamedly Christian in its resolution. Most films cop out and give a very generic spirituality that won't offend the audience. Did the studio want you to tone it down?

Darren Grant: We were going to make this film with or without the studio. Tyler Perry has had huge success with his plays; they've made millions, so he doesn't care what the studios think.

We made this film for the audience, not the Hollywood types. We took it to Fox and they just didn't get it. When we talked to Lions Gate they said, "We don't know much about Tyler Perry beyond what we've learned in the past couple of days, but if you are happy with your script, then just go for it." They pretty much just left us alone.

All of Tyler's work is a testimony. Spirituality is the thread that runs through Tyler's work. He was homeless seven years ago and it was his faith that let him persevere. There's a shortage of films like this and people just eat it up, especially in the black community. People are starving for this kind of film.

I've never seen a film, except for The Color Purple, where you were able to capture the altar call and feel it catching the Spirit. We shot that scene in one day in about 20 or 25 takes. The audience was moved on every take, not just the second or third. I'd look around and the guys behind the cameras were tearing up. We had real church-going people as extras and they were crying. We were like, "This is something special."

Does some of this come from your own spiritual background?

Grant: I go to a church in LA and I know the altar call. When you go to a black church and witness the altar call it just moves you. If you haven't been to church for a while, it really grabs you and you remember what you are missing. If I go every week I kind of get in the groove, but when I've been away for a while and I come back, like some of the characters in the film, it's really powerful. I just said, "I've got to get this on film. I've never seen it on film."

Did you wonder if people would get it?

Grant: I wasn't worried because I knew that the audience this film is for would embrace it. I knew right away that we had something monumental, a thread that runs through and forms the backbone of the story without being in your face.

It sounds like you were as moved as anyone by that scene.

Grant: I was moved more by that scene than I was by The Passion of The Christ. That movie takes us back to a point in time, but this is right now and it's real.

You know, men—especially black men—are told not to cry, to suck it up. But guys told me, "I was holding back, and then Steve (Harris, playing the role of Charles) came down the aisle, and then, when the junkie girl comes down, well I just lost it." That experience of redemption and catching the Spirit, you can't explain it. You just have to be there.

You mentioned your core audience.

Grant: We didn't have a small budget, or a big one. It was an average budget, but we wanted to give something to our people that was elegant and grand and beautiful. That's why Kimberly (Elise, in the role of Helen) just glows. We haven't had a film like this. Tyler Perry gives you a story that goes through love, and tragedy and humor and faith. The story is about forgiveness and redemption that goes full circle, and then in the end you find yourself.