Two years ago, Atlanta filmmakers Tyson, Byron and Ryon Horne approached Atlanta’s True Colors Theatre founder and Broadway director Kenny Leon with a humble request: “Can we follow you around?” Tonight at 7:30 at the Landmark Theatre in Midtown as part of the Atlanta Film Festival, The Horne Brothers will premiere “The Start of Dreams,” the riveting result of that request.
For more than a year, the brothers, cameras in hand, bounced back and forth between The Big Apple and the ATL to chronicle the director as he prepared to open the Broadway production of “Fences” starring Denzel Washington and written by Leon’s late mentor, playwright August Wilson. Simultaenously, Leon was overseeing his annual August Wilson Monologue competition for high school students, preaching the importance of the arts in a struggling economy when arts education is considered expendable.
The brothers chronicle the monologue competition in Atlanta and then follow the Atlanta winners to New York City and the Broadway stage where they will perform in the nail-biting national finals.
“As soon as we saw these kids and saw this incredible talent, we were just blown away,” Ryon Horne tells Intel. “Then we knew what story we needed to tell.”
Leon also paved the ways for pals, including Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Bill Nunn, Congressman John Lewis and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to sit for interviews.
The final cut of the feature-length documentary debut by The Horne Brothers is a joyous, uplifting film that beautifully captures Leon’s artistic spirit down to his sneakers. It might even inspire you to go out and make the world a better place.
“I want these guys to get their shot because they’re incredibly talented,” Leon told us. “Not only does the film document my life but more importantly, it tells the story of these young people who are searching for their passions and their dreams. It tells the story of how important the arts are in our lives.”
So what was the brothers’ secret weapon to gaining such intimate access to their very busy subject? Says Ryon: “We just bugged Kenny a whole lot.” The Oscar-winning Washington, meanwhile, finally agreed to be interviewed on the opening night of “Fences” after running a gauntlet of pre-show media last year.
“He actually asked us if he could sit down because he had been standing up for so long!” remembers Ryon Horne. We were like, ‘You’re Denzel Washington. You can do anything you want!'”
Tyson is responsible for getting the shot, middle brother Byron coordinates the shoot and youngest brother Ryon edits the footage. “Because we’ve known each other all our lives, we’re extremely honest with each other,” Ryon explains. “If one of us is messing up, we let each other know in a no holds barred way too.”
“The Start of Dreams” was miraculously made while all three of the brothers juggled full-time day jobs. While they’re hoping to place the doc in other festivals, tonight’s Atlanta debut remains most important to the trio. Tonight’s red carpet screening, featuring the filmmakers and Leon in attendance, is almost sold out (Ludacris is on the guest list, after all) so the Atlanta Film Festival has added a second screening Thursday at 6:45 p.m. at the Landmark.