A gripping and essential exploration of race, accountability, and the far-reaching consequences of family secrets

Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

A father’s secret. A daughter’s reckoning. A nation’s dark legacy.

Woods Hole Film Festival 2024 Official Selection BIFFlaurels 2024 Official Selection

About the Film

Jan Frazier

Jan Frazier

Years after Lee Ed Frazier's death, his daughter Jan made a shocking discovery: as a young man her father had participated in a lynching. As she attempts to uncover the truth about what happened, Jan learns that this specific lynching was iconic in American history, because photos of it were the first ever to be published in a national publication. Both Time and Life magazines carried the story and the photos as they reported on the anti-lynching bill that was before Congress at that very moment.

Additionally, she realizes that no names of the lynchers were ever published. Even the photographer was protected by a cloak of agreed-upon anonymity. Shaken by this stark reflection of white privilege and the brutality it sought to minimize, Jan must now reckon with deeply conflicted feelings about the father she loved, find a way to hold her family accountable and face the dawning awareness of her own unconscious racism.

Where To See

Woods Hole Film Festival 2024 Official Selection

The 33rd Woods Hole Film Festival

"SHORTS: Be the Change" Opening Day Program

Saturday July 27, 2:00 pm

Redfield Auditorium, Woods Hole, MA.

MV Film Society

Martha's Vineyard Film Center

Screening followed by a panel discussion with director Susanna Styron, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Rabbi Caryn Broitman, moderated by Charlayne Hunter-Gault.

Sunday August 18, 7:30 PM

@ The Film Center, MV, MA

Filmmakers

Susanna Styron, Producer/Director

Susanna Styron's feature documentary credits include the award-winning OUT OF MY HEAD and 9/12:FROM CHAOS TO COMMUNITY. Her debut narrative feature, Columbia Pictures' SHADRACH starring Harvey Keitel and Andie MacDowell, which she co-wrote and directed, premiered at the Venice Film Festival and was distributed theatrically worldwide.

Other narrative work includes Sidney Lumet's TV series 100 CENTRE STREET (writer/director), the web series ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE (director) starring Brooke Adams and the award-winning shorts A DAY LIKE ANY OTHER (director) starring Reichard Beymer and Ally Sheedy, and HOUSE OF TEETH (writer/director).

Susanna’s work has been seen in film festivals around the world, in theatrical release, and on such outlets as HBO, Netflix and Amazon, among others.

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MY FATHER’S NAME Director’s Statement

When I first heard Jan Frazier’s story, it hit me hard. Not only because of the stunning event at its heart, but for the earthshaking experience of discovering something unspeakable about someone you love — a dark secret that can never be illuminated by the person who carried it. That discovery is a profound emotional and spiritual experience, one that is shared by all too many people, including myself. How do we reckon with that? How do we make sense of the duality of good and evil in the same person?

With that as my initial motivation, I quickly discovered what I hadn’t originally taken into account: Jan’s personal story cannot be told independent of its uniquely American historical and social context, given that it has to do with the most charged and complex issue of our time: race. I also came to understand there is a conversation that is not sufficiently taking place among white people about our role in perpetuating racism.

“I thought I wasn’t racist,” Jan says at one point in the film. I can echo that. When I began working on “My Father’s Name” I had no idea that it would lead me to a hard but necessary assessment of my own whiteness and all of its implications. I have been the grateful beneficiary of the experience, wisdom and honesty of my Black team members and other colleagues and friends who have helped open my eyes to my own assumptions and the unquestioned patterns I’ve always lived with. This in turn has informed the film’s evolution into what it is now.

Every schoolchild in Germany learns about the Holocaust, and German society takes ongoing responsibility for the atrocities of its forebears. Conversely, the history of lynching in America has been consistently buried and misunderstood. Not by Black people but by white people. We have had the luxury to hold it at a distance, because we are not the ones being killed. Jan Frazier didn’t have to know about it — until the discovery of her father’s shameful past shined a glaring light on it and she could no longer look away.

I am well aware of the pitfalls of being a white person making a film about a white person talking about horrors perpetrated on Black people. To that end I brought on as advisors historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr., journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault and philanthropic advisor David Dodson. They gave me wise guidance and encouragement, and affirmed that the conversation, no matter how difficult and potentially inflammatory, must be furthered.

Susanna Styron portrait
Photo Credit: Marilyn Roos

Susanna Styron 5/24/2024

Susanna Styron directing
Director Susanna Styron on the set of My Father's Name

The Team

Press kit

Click images to download hi-res versions

Photo Kit

Animation frame of falling words over a sun burst through tree
Animation frame
Jan Frazier interview
Jan Frazier
Jan Frazier Yearbook Photo with Gloria and Sylvia Frazier
Yearbook 1968-69
Jan Frazier on her father's laps
Jan and her father
Jan Frazier, Father and Brother
Jan with her father and brother
Susanna Styron portrait
Susanna Styron
Photo Credit: Marilyn Roos

Poster

My Father's Name: A father's secret. A daughter's reckoning. A nation's dark legacy.