a film by joshua bee alafia

His friends think Parker is crazy for believing that Al Green's new album will bring fractured families back together upon it's release. He makes a documentary about the difficulty African American families face in staying together and we see several couples navigate pregnancy, commitment, communication and fatherhood. Will Al Green's music prove to enchant, awaken and inspire the streets of Brooklyn... and the world?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Shooting Let's Stay Together


 It's been a long time coming, but I can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel!  I had the idea for "Let's Stay Together" in 2005, first as a documentary about the fracturing of the African Diasporan family in catastrophic proportions after the Vietnam War and mass introduction of heroin to the urban sector, and later crack epidemic.  I met with my friend Sonya Childress who was working with POV, and we worked on grants together.  I read books like "When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down" by Joan Morgan, "The Assassination of the Black Male Image" and "Black Fatherhood" by Dr. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, "What's Love Got To Do With It" and "Ensuring Inequality" by Donna L. Franklin, "Salvation" by bell hooks, "The Two Thousand Seasons" by Ayi Kwei Armah, and later "Be a Father To Your Child: Real Talk From Black Men On Family, Love and Fatherhood" edited by April R. Silver, and wanted to interview these authors as well as other sociologists and thinkers like Robert J. Lewis and his article "An Examination of Ethnicity and Self Hate."  We were unsuccessful in getting any grant money and I started experiencing a lack of willingness from brothers to come forward and talk about their failures as fathers, I was getting a very lopsided testimony from single mothers talking about the vanishing fathers in the community.  It was at that point that I decided to do a feature narrative film on the subject and include the documentary by having the main character be a filmmaker who ends up getting a friend pregnant and having to navigate fatherhood after having such strong thoughts on the subject.  I began trying to reach out to Al Green for an interview, as he was touring and I had the idea that his new album could magically enchant the community in the film into working things out and staying together to raise the youth.  I actually went down to his church in Memphis to talk with him and receive his blessing in the project.  You can read the whole story at this link: Memphis Mecca!
A few weeks ago, I found out that BET is doing a series set in Atlanta called, "Let's Stay Together."  It was disappointing, because I felt like it may confuse folks when my film comes out, they may think the projects are related... i even initially felt more entitled to the title, since I've been working on the film for five years now inbetween other projects, with no budget coming in from the outside, completely and often tragically independently, and here comes a sitcom with "my title!"  Well, in actuality it's Al Green who popularized the phrase with one of the most beautiful, soulful songs of the 20th century.  How does he feel about all of us referencing him?  In the spirit of fellow artistry, he ended up telling me to go ahead and make my movie and do my thing, so I feel he has given me his blessing personally, and I feel great about that.  BET can do their thing too.  There's room for all of our interpretations of "Let's Stay Together," and hopefully, our collective call to action will reach folks.  If anything, hopefully BET's sitcom will steer a wider audience toward my film... feels strange to call it mine... let's call it "Ours."
This weekend I shot remaining scenes where I have to be in front of the camera with my good friend, photographer Dwayne Rogers, building the beginning of the film where my character talks to single mothers while he's doing the laundry, thus inspiring him to do a documentary.  We then started shooting the finale scene where we see there is magic behind Parker's madness.  It's coming.  Still need about 6 more scenes to complete it.
Bringing us to the present.  I'm under the gun, trying to submit a cut to Sundance Film Festival, as it's such a powerful launch pad for independent films and has recently helped small independent films like A Good Day To Be Black And Sexy by Dennis Dortch and Medicine For Melancholy by Barry Jenkins.  Please click on the links and support those brothas by buying a DVD if you can... Last night, I stayed up late editing the new teaser with my bredren Hisham Omar Haj and dubbing a scene with one of my favorite actors, Elijah Starr.  I have a lot of editing to do, and I still have to shoot the opening and finale to the film.  Love and Happiness, y'all!
here, please big up the trailer on youtube and give a comment!  click the link: Let's Stay Together Teaser