Parallel Sons

Director: John G. Young
Screenwriters: John G. Young

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Twenty-year-old Seth Carlson has lived his whole life in a sleepy little town in upstate New York, where everyone knows everyone else, waves to everyone in pickup trucks, tells one another the same racist jokes, and they all amuse themselves by burning crosses on the weekends. Seth dreams another life: of becoming a real artist and changing his lily white skin to a deeper color. In a town where the person crooning on the radio is usually named Hank, Seth plugs into hip-hop and house, and sports red dreadlocks and gangster attire. Yet he has never met an African-American.

Enter Knowledge. Like a vision, Knowledge appears at Seth’s café one night after having been shot in the arm while escaping from acorrectional facility. He is demanding, abusive, black, and delirious. Seth is amazed and enthralled; unfazed by Knowledge’s gun, Seth takes him back to the family cabin and nurses him back to health. The young men establish a relationship that forms the core of the film. Initially Knowledge ridicules Seth’s pseudohomeboy style, yet eventually the barriers are lowered, allowing a deeper understanding and awakening an inevitable passion.

In her review of Bonnie and Clyde, Pauline Kael described that film as having a certain “American poetry.” Like Bonnie and Clyde, the outcast actions in Parallel Sons belie a certain romanticism, which at the core is a real longing for acceptance and love. Parallel Sons is not simply an exercise in poetics, but also deconstructs stereotypes so familiar to us all. It is a beautiful, insightful, and poignant first feature and will certainly establish John G. Young as a first-rate independent filmmaker.

— Andrea Alsberg

Screening Details

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