In 1996, Leonard Primiano asked his former student Will Luers to document on video the Fiftieth Wedding Anniversary of Father and Mother Divine. Luers recorded numerous banquets and interviews with Mother Divine and about twenty of the followers. Many of those interviewed have since died and there remain many more whose stories have not yet been recorded. These are inherently fascinating and uniquely American personal narratives. Women and men, rich and poor, black and white, from as far away as Australia and Switzerland, came to Harlem or Philadelphia in the thirties and forties. They dedicated their lives to an incarnation of God and to working for racial justice and world peace. Each living member embodies a dramatic story that reveals a hidden history of race and religion in America.
In the years since their initial filming, Primiano and Luers tried to produce a linear documentary out of this material. It has proved difficult, not only because of its controversial subject, but also because the story contains so much about the changes in twentieth-century America: poverty, segregation, war, Americanism, civil rights, right and left wing politics, gender, women’s liberation and the alternative medicine movement. The Father Divine Project was born out of the need to present a multi-linear and multimodal experience; a network of micro-narratives that convey to the general public a deeper, more nuanced understanding of religion, race, belief, aesthetics, culture, and America.
All of the videos (shot between 1996 and 2000) in the Father Divine Project are collected here on this page in the gallery above and also linked as pages below.