October 4-20, 2022

Stay Prayed Up

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The only thing mightier than Lena Mae Perry’s electrifying voice is her faith. She has spent the last 50 years sharing and sharpening both as the steadfast bandleader of The Branchettes, a legendary North Carolina gospel group that has packed churches throughout the South and lifted weary hearts as far away as Ireland. Stay Prayed Up is a spirited celebration, inviting audiences into “Mother” Perry’s close-knit community as the 82-year-old strives to extend her sacred song ministry ever forward.

This fast-paced, foot-thumping documentary follows Perry and The Branchettes as they prepare to record their first, fully live album, a hallmark in the canon of Black gospel groups. Health concerns with long-time, long-fingered pianist Wilbur Tharpe underscore the importance of “capturing the spirit” for producer Phil Cook, a white Wisconsin-born gospel enthusiast and musical polyglot half of Perry’s age. Through shared prayer, laughter, hardships and praise, this “church gospel noisy crew” demonstrates that music, like faith, ain’t nothing without some fire inside.


Filmmaker Biography

D.L. Anderson (Co-Director) has made visual meals out of music and moments from the rural American South over the past decade. His first documentary feature Farmer/Veteran (Co-Director, Editor, Producer) is an immersive experience that “defies your expectations at every turn.” Its broadcast premiere on PBS’ Independent Lens followed festival acclaim from Shanghai to Hot Springs. A more recent doc-hybrid short, The Seeds We Keep (Co-Director, D.P., Editor) offers a luminous love song for the art of cultural preservation in the face of erasure. Anderson is a Co-Founder and the Creative Executive Producer at Vittles Films and SuperCollider. You can often find him swimming in a river, eating sardines and seeking ways to dismantle systems of oppression with faith that there is a just and abundant table for all.

Matt Durning (Co-Director) makes films that amplify human connection. He came to documentary filmmaking through progressive political campaigns, and his passion for social justice continues to drive his work as a storyteller. Durning has produced lauded non-fiction work for outlets including HBO, ESPN, Wired, PBS Frontline/World, Al Jazeera America, Ovation, Smithsonian Channel, and YouTube. His short documentary, Perry County, won numerous festival accolades and was a national finalist for the IDA David L. Wolper Award. Durning is the founder and executive producer of Interlocking Pictures, a full-service documentary production company based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. With over a decade of experience in non-fiction film, television, and commercial production, Durning has established a directorial style guided by empathy, exploration, and execution.

Phil Cook (Producer, Film Protagonist) is a musical polyglot with a knack for conversation and collaboration, wherever he may find it. This is his first film as a producer and Spiritual Helpline is his dream record label.


October 4-20, 2022

Tuesday, October 4, 2022 - Pikeville, Kentucky
University of Pikeville with Phil Cook (Producer, Film Protagonist)

Wednesday, October 5, 2022 - Winston-Salem, North Carolina
a/perture cinema with D.L. Anderson (Co-Director)

Thursday, October 6, 2022 - Lexington, Kentucky
Living Arts and Science Center with Phil Cook (Producer, Film Protagonist)

Friday, October 7, 2022 - Nashville, Tennessee
Global Education Center & Fisk University with Phil Cook (Producer, Film Protagonist)

Saturday, October 8, 2022 - Clemson, South Carolina
The Arts Center of Clemson & Clemson University World Cinema Studies Department with Mother Perry (Film Protagonist) & Lena C. Williams (Producer)

Monday, October 10, 2022 - Hapeville, Georgia
City of Hapeville with Mother Perry (Film Protagonist) & Lena C. Williams (Producer)

Tuesday, October 11, 2022 - Atlanta, Georgia
Spelman College with Mother Perry (Film Protagonist), Lena C. Williams (Producer), and Matt Durning (Co-Director)

Wednesday, October 12, 2022 - Birmingham, Alabama
Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema with D.L. Anderson and Matt Durning (Co-Directors)

Thursday, October 13, 2022 - Cleveland, Mississippi
Bologna Performing Arts Center, Delta State University with D.L. Anderson (Co-Director)

Friday, October 14, 2022 - Wilmington, North Carolina
University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Cucalorus Film Festival, Working Films, and WHQR Public Media with Mother Perry (Film Protagonist), Lena C. Williams (Producer), Angela Kent (Film Protagonist), and Matt Durning (Co-Director)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - Sarasota, Florida
WSLR with Angela Kent (Film Protagonist)

Thursday, October 20, 2022 - Miami, Florida
O Cinema with Angela Kent (Film Protagonist)