Family Name

What does a name signify, exactly? Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, white filmmaker Macky Alston never questioned why all of the other Alstons at his elementary school were black. Twenty-five years later, Alston decides to unravel this perplexity in the award-winning documentary FAMILY NAME.

Alston’s quest to solve his genealogical mystery takes him from New York to Alabama and then back to North Carolina. He seeks clues at family reunions, graveyards, church services, and, eventually, the original Alston plantations. The people he meets vary markedly in race, age, class and perspective, but they all have two things in common: the family name and a compelling story to tell. The biggest question of this investigation, perhaps, is whether it will provide the Alstons with catharsis or create an even greater sense of division. As the revelations mount, FAMILY NAME unfolds an unforgettable emotional journey that transforms our conceptions of the past.

Recipient of the Sundance Film Festival Freedom of Expression Award and myriad other accolades, FAMILY NAME is not only a provocative meditation on race in America, but also a poignant portrait of what it is that constitutes “family.”

Links to additional Resources

FAMILY NAME was broadcast nationally on PBS’ POV

In addition, FAMILY NAME has been featured nationally on the Oprah Winfrey Show, The Today Show, All Thing Considered, NBC News and MSNBC.

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WINNER, 1997 Sundance Film Festival Freedom of Expression Award
WINNER, 1997 IFP Gotham Open Palm Award (Best First Feature/New York)
WINNER, 1997 Bermuda International Film Festival Grand Jury Prize
WINNER, 1997 North Carolina Film Festival Best Feature Award
1997 TOP-TEN LISTS: New York Observer, New York Press, L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Bay Area Reporter (#1 of ‘97), Spectator (Raleigh/ Durham)