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Synopsis: Three professions ushered Black former slaves from poverty to the American dream: preacher, teacher, and undertaker. Today, renowned embalmer James Bryant puts his faith in a new generation to continue this vanishing legacy. He’s met with resistance from his young intern, Clarence Pierre, who himself is conflicted about his commitment due to the judgment he feels from the Black community as a queer, Christian man.



Run Time

80 minutes

Directed by

Nathan Clarke

Director's Statement

We pursue filmmaking that explores instead of explains. We create out of a conviction that the complexity of human behavior is worth examining, even if the subject’s actions, beliefs, or principles seem conflicting. This means following a story wherever it leads and trying to not make assumptions about the destination before we arrive. So we entered production on The Passing On with a set of questions about life working among the dead, but more importantly, an interest in the lives of these men and women employed by Lewis Funeral Home.

As the story began to unfold, we knew we were on to something based on the reaction of our African American producer. Her overwhelming feeling of frustration over the loss of a cultural staple, Black funeral homes, due to the forces of gentrification and lack of community resources was almost too much. Moreover, when the revelation of the main character’s lack of total and complete acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community made us cringe, we knew it would be important to show. As much as we wanted to display his heroic efforts to mentor mortuary students, there was also the potential for increased awareness and the possible changing of minds by showing this uncomfortable thread in all of its complexity.

A funeral is a time to remember, to mourn, and to be still which meant slowing down our camera to allow moments to unfold and to not chase them. A significant portion of the film is made of observational moments when our characters interact, discuss, quarrel, and even laugh while doing the work before them. Our focus is almost always on the subjects and rarely on the bodies (other than to give some brief context). We spent a significant amount of time with the camera on the tripod – allowing subjects to come in and out of frame as their work allowed. We did not want to chase the action but rather to see what unfolded.

Production Year


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