Stay Prayed Up
Directed by: D.L. Anderson and Matthew Durning
USA, 2021, 74m
Lena “Ma” Mae Perry is a force of nature. At age 82, she can blow the roof off any church, singing a passionate R&B gospel so infectious that atheists will question their beliefs. Leader of local legends The Branchettes, Ma Perry has been singing the good word for over a half century and serving as a community anchor for just as long. Every week she sits on her porch and makes calls to friends and strangers who have reached out for advice or comfort. As much as this film is about the recording of The Branchettes’s first live album, it’s also a window to Ma Perry’s selfless philosophy on life and how faith can guide one through the most troubled times. This is a joyous and beautiful document that smartly stays focused on Ma Perry, music, and community, never seeking outside validation from professionals. Dubbed a “church gospel noisy crew” by their long-fingered pianist Wilbur Tharpe, they only need hymnals and harmonies to prove the intersection of music and faith is never stronger than on a steamy Sunday morning in rural North Carolina.