Parallel Sons: Tale of Two Men, White Artist and Black Escapee

Sundance Film Fest 1996 (Dramatic Competition)–Set in a sleepy upstate New York town, where cross burning is a weekend pastime, “Parallel Sons” follows the chance meeting and tragic fate of an aspiring white artist and an African American correctional facility escapee.

Seth (Gabriel Mick) is a lonely, closeted, artistically minded youth in a sleepy, prejudiced rural town that has an overpowering obsession with African American culture. When he runs up against Knowledge (Lawrence Mason), an escaped black convict, who is wounded, Seth hides him in the family cabin and attempts to befriend him, only to discover that he’s gay too.

Despite the brutal circumstances of their introduction, their lives become irreversibly entangled when Seth hides Knowledge in the woods, safe from the racist sheriff and nurses him back to health.

But Seth’s act of kindness goes beyond compassion, for Seth’s personal world is fueled by the romanticized notion of the meaning of being a young black man from the inner city. Set can lip-synch to rap without missing a beat, and he wears gangsta clothes and his hair in dreads, albeit blonde.

Knowledge becomes more than an opportunity to escape as the two men tentatively discover a deeper commonality pulling them closer together. When a sudden accident drives them further away from the law, they embark on a desperate journey in search of freedom.

Young’s tragic buddy tale stresses the notion of artistic obsession that crashes against the cruel social reality. There may be too many obvious confrontations and message-driven scenes about social marginalization, both self imposed and imposed by others, but the acting of both men is good.

Taut with dramatic and sexual tension, “Parallel Sons” is the first feature of writer-director John G. Young, who shows promise as a skillful filmmaker.

Ultimately, “Parallel Sons” is more about kindness and compassion than it is about interracial communication and the differences that make one man “white” and the other “black.”

“Parallel Sons” won the audience award at both the Florida Film Festival and the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Festival.