A gay man seeks to discover what kinship, if any, exists between his white family and the nearby blacks who share the name of Alston.

Director:

Writers:

(narration written by), (narration written by)
Reviews

On Disc

at Amazon

3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

Photos

Add Image Add an image

Do you have any images for this title?

Edit

Cast

Cast overview:
Macky Alston ...
Himself / Narrator
William Badgett ...
Rev. Primus Alston (as Will Badgett)
Edit

Storyline

A gay man seeks to discover what kinship, if any, exists between his white family and the nearby blacks who share the name of Alston.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Documentary

Edit

Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

29 August 1997 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

See  »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
A Stunning Documentary Meditation On Family History, Secrets, Truth and more...
13 January 2004 | by (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) – See all my reviews

I would highly recommend FAMILY NAME if you can catch it - it still is unavailable on DVD or VHS (which is terribly unfortunate) - I would confess to having a bias (my last name being Alston), but it still stands out as a remarkable piece of documentary film-making.

Overall FAMILY NAME is a family-tree project on a grand, vast scale - an attempt at tracing the 'black' and 'white' sides of a family linked by an uncommon surname (Alston), resulting in a film both meticulous in its' detail, and hypnotic in it's unhurried artistry. Along the way, 'Family Name' also serves as a meditation on family secrets both racial and sexual, as Macky Alston is an out gay filmmaker, and also the product of a Southern Baptist family active in the struggle for racial equality in the American South. A bit like William Faulkner reimagined by Tsai Ming-liang, this documentary reveals its' secrets slowly, as Alston works elliptically around central North Carolina collecting interviews and personal histories, interspersing historical investigation and reportage as he locates the American point of origin of the name in Chatham County, just south of Durham and Chapel Hill, NC. Along the way Alstons both black and white, drawn from across the American economic spectrum flesh out bits of the story, showcasing (or adding context around) family notables like Romare Bearden (an Alston cousin who became a celebrated painter during the Harlem renaissance) in the process.

Alston - who is present, though usually off-camera - has a quiet, mildly cerebral dignity that underscores the meditative quality of the film, and his quiet suggestion that the reluctance in some family members to ponder the racial divide running through a family with a complex history is similar to the reluctance to reveal certain essential elements (like ones' sexual orientation), out of fear of rejection or offense. The suggestion is that the mindful revelation of (or at least refection upon) either represents a true route towards an enlightened view of one's own history and heritage. In this frame of mind, FAMILY NAME must also be singled out as one of the finest 'Southern' films I've ever seen - presenting individuals who embody a region facing a warts-and-all history, with a single minded determination to grow and move on, shattering a list of regional stereotypes even while drenched in the 'atmosphere' the region is famed and romanticized for.

My review might be a touch biased, but so be it. This is a great film, much deserving of a wider audience. Let's hope a home video release happens soon.


2 of 2 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
DVD available dls-16
Discuss Family Name (1997) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?