Documentary Feature: Song For Our People
Run Time: 56 minutes
Director: Mustapha Khan
Song For Our People is a thought-provoking new documentary from Emmy Award-winning director Mustapha Khan. The film tells the story of an intriguing group of musicians and artists who come together one day in a Brooklyn recording studio to create a powerful new anthem to honor the perseverance of their African American ancestors. Featuring a who’s who of New York studio musicians, the film is both a rare glimpse into the collaborative creative process of professional artists, and a compelling examination of what it means to be part of the on-going historical struggle for full freedom for Black and Brown people in America.
Khan conceived of the film, and the eponymous song being recorded in the session, after being inspired by something he once heard a preacher say. He recounts: “Speaking to a mostly Black audience, the preacher said: You know, when we die and go to heaven, it’s not going to be St. Peter who meets us at the pearly gates. Rather, it will be a group of our ancestors — ancestors who had lived their lives enslaved. And they will have one question for each of us, and one question only, and that is: what have you done with your freedom?”
Trevor Allen, Don Braden, Norman Burns, Elsa Cornish, Omar Edwards, Charlie Ernst, Clark Gayton, Gary Fritz, Gemini Hodge, Mustapha Khan, Ricardo Khan, Karen Lloyd, Jeremy Pelt, Ralph Rolle, Oliver Straus, Tashan, Kenny Vaughan, Jessie Wagner.
Mustapha Khan, Kyle Kelley, Phil Vickery, Nancy Pagan, Michael Sutter, Ryan Dann, Hill Pluvoise, Michael McCabe, Tamara Kachelmeier, Kevin Wilson.
Mustapha Khan is an Emmy Award-winning director with over 100 film and television credits. His feature film Rocksteady, a Rastafarian-infused, coming of age feel-good movie about an aspiring stock car racer, won the Best Picture Award at both the 2011 Litchfield Hills Film Festival and the 2011 Jamaica Reggae Film Festival, where Khan also won the Best Director Award. Rocksteady has been broadcast nationally, has international distribution and is widely available on Netflix and iTunes.
His documentary feature House On Fire, about the AIDS Epidemic in Black America, won the Best Documentary Award at the 2000 Houston International Film Festival, and has been extensively exhibited worldwide. It was also honored by the United States House of Representatives, where the film had a special screening for Congress. His critically-acclaimed film Reflections Of A Native Son, about a troubled teenager growing up in the South Bronx, was nationally broadcast on PBS and is on permanent display at the American Museum of Television & Radio Paley Center.
His television special Sesame Street’s 25th Anniversary: A Musical Celebration was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award and is one of the best selling home videos in Sesame Street’s history. His original television PSA campaign for the Children’s Defense Fund was honored with a White House reception.
Mustapha Khan won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for his original work for Sesame Street and has been nominated for two other Emmy Awards. He has also won an Addy Award for Outstanding Directing for his commercial work.
As a commercial director, Khan’s credits include national television spots for clients such as: Coca-Cola, Honda, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Burger King, HBO and Nickelodeon. Celebrities Khan has directed include: Bill Cosby, Gloria Estefan, Quincy Jones, Alicia Keys, Maya Angelou, Snoop Dogg, Ray Charles, Ralph Nader, Mya, LL Cool J, Dave Chappelle, Lindsay Lohan and the Muppets.
The son of a beloved family physician in Camden, New Jersey, who practiced on a street that now bears his name, Mustapha speaks often of his late father, and his big shoes he attempts to fill. He says: “I know that I will never put as many smiles on people’s faces with my work as my Dad did with his — but I'm having fun trying."
He is a graduate of Harvard University, where he was a Harvard College Scholar and an elected Marshal of his graduating class. He was also the recipient of a Rotary Graduate Fellowship, with which he worked as an anthropologist in Kenya prior to becoming a filmmaker. Mustapha Khan is a lifetime member of the Directors Guild of America and teaches film production at Brooklyn College. He lives in Brooklyn with his lovely wife Allyson Smith.
"Song For Our People is an anthem that has taken its rightful place alongside Lift Every Voice and Sing and To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. The song's central message 'what have you done with your freedom?', demands a level of personal introspection that will no doubt challenge, re-activate and spiritually fortify each of us to recommit ourselves to the continuous struggle for equity and social justice...if not for ourselves, then most assuredly for our children."
- CEO Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Tia Powell-Harris