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Film Honoring Legacy of African-American Funeral Traditions to Premiere

NEW YORK, N.Y. – HOMEGOINGS, New York filmmaker Christine Turner’s debut feature documentary that honors the traditions of African-American funerals as told through the eyes of Isaiah Owens, one of Harlem’s most renowned funeral directors, will have its World Premiere on Thursday, February 28 at 8:00pm in the International Selections section of the 2013 Documentary Fortnight: MoMA's International Festival of Nonfiction Film. Simultaneously at Documentary Fortnight, HOMEGOINGS is part of MoMA Selects: POV, an homage to PBS’s longest-running showcase for independent documentary film, with a special selection of films from the series’ past 25 years, wherein HOMEGOINGS will make its broadcast premiere on POV later this year. The premiere at Documentary Fortnight 2013 will feature a special performance by composer and violinist Daniel Roumain, introduced by Simon Kilmurry, Executive Producer, POV; followed by a discussion with Christine Turner and an appearance by Isaiah Owens.

Through the heart and soul of funeral director Isaiah Owens, the beauty and grace of African-American funerals are miraculously brought to life in HOMEGOINGS, honoring a rich palette of tradition, history and celebration. HOMEGOINGS tells the tale of how we cope with death and sending our loved ones “home.” Filmmaker Christine Turner combines intimate interviews and compelling cinéma vérité to paint an enlightening portrait—that is both heartwarming and haunting—of not only the dearly departed, but also the man who serves them so well.

As the daughter of a Chinese-American mother and an African-American father, Turner experienced two different sets of funeral customs when both of her grandmothers passed away within two weeks of one another. Though just a child at the time, she remained curious about the different ways cultures mourned death. Many years later, when she came across an article about Harlem undertaker Isaiah Owens, who had a reputation for beautifying the dead, she was immediately intrigued.

Originally from South Carolina, Owens moved to New York in 1968 to train as a mortician at the age of 17. In addition to being recognized as a superb embalmer and restorative artist, he has since earned a number of awards for his contributions to the community. Along with his wife, Lillie, he runs Owens Funeral Home, “where beauty softens your grief.”

“While death is something we all must face in one way or another, it is so often a taboo subject of discussion,” said Turner. “With HOMEGOINGS, I wanted to open a conversation on death in a way that not only captured its pain, but also its humor and humanity. I found that the best and most moving way to do that was through real stories from real people. I discovered that the true experts on death are the ones who are dealing with it every day and they are the ones who can truly make you appreciate life.”

For more information and to watch a trailer of HOMEGOINGS, visit On Facebook at and Twitter at


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