HOMEGOINGS -- a documentary about a couple of funeral homes (one in Harlem, the other in Branchville, South Carolina), the man who started them, his family and the clients he serves -- is one whopper of an experience: the kind of film you finish shaking your head (and maybe a few tears away) in wonderment, thinking, "Who'd have imagined this?" Initially, you might think you've stepped into something like a black version of Bernie, Richard Linklater's marvelous movie about a famous funeral director in Texas. But, no, this is a quiet little documentary, and an amazingly good one, too.
Christine Turner, shown at left, the film offers our current, multicolored citizenry (especially those who tend, as so many of us do, to avoid ruminating on the eventuality of our oncoming death) the chance to experience a side of black culture that we seldom see. Sure, the funeral procession that climaxes Imitation of Life still moves us and speaks volumes, but here we see that -- and so much more.
Isaiah Owens (above, shown plying his trade) -- a South Carolina boy who was, as he explains, "just born to do what I'm doin'," which is, of course, arranging for the funerals of his peers and preparing their bodies for a final showing -- Ms Turner, Mr. Owens, and his family and friends manage quite a feat: They demystify death to a surprising degree, helping turn it into something not so dreaded nor fearsome -- even as they give the ol' grim reaper his due respect.
Peralta Pictures, opens a week-long theatrical run tomorrow -- Monday, June 24 -- at the Maysles Cinema, as part of its Documentary in Bloom series. It will also have it television broadcast premiere the same day via PBS' POV documentary series.