Circle of Life

One of four short films to premiere this week addresses racism, life at a crossroads

By Natasha Breu

In his upcoming short film, “Homegoing,” which unites actor Khalil Kain with Tupac’s nephew Malik Shakur, Syracuse University graduate and filmmaker Carlton Daniel Jr. portrays the reality of being a Black man in America. Themes of structural racism weave throughout the storyline against the backdrop of a mortician’s son caught in the cycle of grief.

The short film is set to premiere as a part of “Horizons: New Film Out of Central New York,” a three-night short film showcase highlighting winners of the 2020 CNY Short Film Competition. The screenings are hosted by Light Work’s Urban Video Project in collaboration with the Innovative Group of CNY.

“Exhibiting these works is an extension of our commitment to supporting emerging artists,” said Urban Video Project Director Anneka Herre.

“Homegoing” is set to premiere along with three other films. It is based on Daniel’s own experiences with working at a funeral home when he was a teenager. He said he took inspiration from the family who owned the business along with the people who utilized its services.

“I was really inspired and moved by my personal experience working at a funeral home,” Daniel said. “So I wrote ‘Homegoing’ based off of that.”

The film’s two leads, Khalil Kain and Malik Shakur, play the father and son duo at the center of “Homegoing.” Kain previously acted in the 1992 film “Juice,” starring alongside the late rapper Tupac Shakur. Shakur completed several more films before he was murdered in 1996.

Daniel described when Kain and Malik Shakur united on set and called it a “beautiful moment.”

“You get goosebumps when you think about, one how great it is that they’re together in the whole full-circle moment of the whole situation,” Daniel said. “But also kind of disheartening, the fact that 27 years later, we’re still talking about the same things, or we’re still having the same conversations.”

Daniel hopes to further the nation’s conversation on racism. He notes, due to recent events, people are starting to see how structural racism operates in nearly every facet of American life, including housing, education and in the justice department.

“Homegoing” will soon be developed into a full-length feature film. Daniel said the script is completed, but the film needs resources and financial support. He is searching for a production company along with financers to fund the film.

“Horizons: New Film Out of Central New York” screens from dusk to 11 p.m. Sept. 3-5 at the Everson Museum Plaza, 401 Harrison St. The four winners of the 2019 CNY Short Film Competition to be shown include: “Homegoing” directed by Carlton Daniel, “I Wish” directed by Kathryn Ferentchak, “Early Bird” directed by Issack Cintrón and “Apocalypse … Now?” directed by Charles Stulck.

People attending will be directed to sit six feet apart, unless they are in a family unit. All attendees are encouraged to wear masks. Combined the four films run just under an hour, and the screenings will play multiple times throughout the evening.

Natasha Breu is an Arts Journalism graduate student at Syracuse University