In June 2013, POV caught up with Christine Turner, the director of Homegoings, to find out what’s happened since the camera stopped rolling.
POV: Where are Isaiah and his family today? Do they still operate their funeral home and how is the business doing?
Turner: Quite a bit has changed since the time of filming. Isaiah’s son Chris is now living in Florida, which he prefers over New York, and his daughter Shaniqua currently lives in South Carolina, where she is pursuing a nursing career. Of course Isaiah and his wife Lillie are still fixtures at the funeral home in Harlem and remain busy as ever. The same goes for Willie Mae, who is now 96 years old, and is still working at the funeral parlor in Branchville.
POV: How have audiences reacted to the film?
Christine Turner: I’ve been amazed by the reactions we’re hearing so far. I think that there is an expectation because of the subject matter that the film is going to morbid or depressing and so people tend to have certain reservations about watching the film. But by and large people are finding it to be a really moving, even uplifting experience. In fact, someone just recently told me that watching the film finally provided them with a sense of closure after having lost a loved one over a decade ago. That really blew me away.
POV: What has the reception been like in Harlem?
Turner: It’s been incredible to see the tremendous support the people of Harlem have thrown behind this film and behind Isaiah Owens. We had the honor of screening the film at the landmark Apollo Theater and it was a packed house. People were laughing, crying and cheering all at the same time. Right now it’s playing for a week at Maysles Cinema, located just a few blocks down from Owens Funeral Home, so if you’re in New York I would encourage you to experience the film communally if you can.
POV: What are you working on next?
Turner: Right now I’m finishing up a series of short videos about the policing tactic known as “stop-and-frisk” and continuing to research ideas for my next independent project. I’m also traveling with Homegoings and hoping to share it in different communities across the country.