On the surface, Isaiah Owens might sound a little odd: A South Carolina boy obsessed with funerals grows up to be a renowned funeral director in New York City's historic Harlem neighborhood. The bigger picture, as captured in the documentary Homegoings, shows an exceptionally warm-hearted, philosophical man who pursues his business with equal care for the living and for the dead. He combines instinctive sympathy for the bereaved with a deep knowledge of African-American funeral customs that aim to turn sorrow into an affirmation of faith that loved ones are going "home."
Paradoxically, Owens' success reveals that this precious tradition, formed in a time of rigid segregation, is disappearing. Owens routinely receives invitations to sell his establishment to bigger companies, but he always turns them down. "I'm trying to create a business that could take care of my family for maybe the next hundred, 200 years," he explains. In doing so, he is also carrying forward a legacy — dating back more than a century — of the black funeral director as a pillar of the community. Weaving in an ensemble of Owens' customers, who express a mix of grief, humor and celebration, Homegoings is a moving portrait of a man with a rare passion and of the inspired, if threatened, African-American way of death.
- Christine TurnerDirector/Producer