37th Annual VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL Oct 30-Nov 3, 2024

37th Annual VIRGINIA FILM FESTIVAL October 30-November 3, 2024

Stay Prayed Up

stay prayed up film Play Button

Ethel Mae Elliot, left, and Lena Mae Perry, right, perform at The Branchettes 23rd Anniversary in 1996, Long Branch Disciples of Christ, New Grove, North Carolina. Photo by Roland L. Freeman, from the documentary film STAY PRAYED UP.

Stay Prayed Up is a foot-stomping, soul-stirring documentary that follows the Branchettes, a legendary North Carolina gospel group led by the force of nature that is Lena Mae “Sister” Perry. Now in her 50th year as bandleader, Perry and her group have packed churches and lifted hearts throughout the South and as far away as Ireland. The film follows the Branchettes as they record their first, fully live album, a hallmark in the canon of Black gospel groups. Producer Phil Cook, a white Wisconsin-born gospel enthusiast half Perry’s age is eager to capture the spirit of the group, particularly given healthy concerns with longtime and long-fingered pianist Wilbur Tharpe. A film full of shared prayer, laughter, friendship, love and soaring voices, Stay Prayed Up is a testament to the fact that music, and faith, are nothing without the fire that fuels them. Discussion with Mother Lena Mae Perry, producer Phil Cook, and filmmakers Matt Durning and D.L. Anderson, moderated by Joe Fab (VAFF). 

Supported by UVA Division for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion



Saturday, October 30


3:00 PM


Culbreth Theatre

Film Info

Director: Matt Durning and D.L. Anderson

Runtime: 74 min.

Genre: Documentaries

Year: 2021

Country: USA

Language: English

Featuring: Lena Mae Perry