‘Soar Torian Soar’: Torian’s mother speaks for a ‘sea of grieving mothers’

While grieving for her first-born son, Audrey Candy Corn must raise her two surviving sons.

Review by Wanda Sabir

“Soar Torian Soar,” co-directed by Audrey Candy Corn and Peter Menchini, is the story of an active grief ritual. The film chronicles Candy Corn’s loss of her eldest son Torian Hughes to violence – a parental rite of passage all too familiar to mothers in Oakland. Heart shattered, Candy Corn gets help from her neighbors and friends who help her literally sort through Torian’s belongings bagged and stacked in the various rooms in the family’s West Oakland home. Sorting through her son’s items tells the stories of his first crush, wish for a brother granted and photos reflecting the care he took of his siblings and the great affection he had for mom. Candy Corn shares her parenting values and the degree to which these values countered, even cushioned what her three boys, the eldest, Torian Hughes, a casualty of that contradiction, experience daily.

Sorting through her son’s items tells the stories of his first crush, wish for a brother granted and photos reflecting the care he took of his siblings and the great affection he had for mom.

In a recent interview, co-directors Candy Corn and Menchini talk about the decision to not just document her journey, which continues, but share the personal work with a larger community. Candy Corn says that she is now inducted into a “sea of grieving mothers” populated by the descendants along a familiar ancestral route. At her son’s killer’s trial, her attorney offered the youth a deal which would have shaved 35 years off his sentence. His attorney refused. Now the 22-year-old is facing up to 60 years.

The screening, Sunday, June 9, 2:30 p.m., at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., in San Francisco, as a part of the 16th Annual SF Documentary Film Festival through June 13 will feature a community forum after the screening with a panel that includes the directors, moderated by SF Chronicle columnist Otis Taylor. Visit sfindie.com.

Torian Hughes’s flesh reminds one of Emmett Till’s body and the decision his mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till Mobley, made to grieve in public her son’s brutal killing. The log line for “Soar Torian Soar” is “It Takes a Community to Heal. Aché.” While Till’s death sparked a revolutionary movement when African America saw visually what hatred of Black people produced – Money, Mississippi, Aug. 28, 1955, emblematic of racial injustice – Torian’s death is the other side of the loss. It is what this mother, these brothers, this community, need to do to heal. Candy Corn shows viscerally what it means to lose a child. We never really know how the loss feels in Mobley’s body, how her son’s death shows up in her inability to function and who is there to help her.

The co-directors meet at a protest on Valentine’s Day. Candy Corn had been video documenting her various feelings about her son’s death. The plan grew from making a personal document to remember Torian to this public statement from “a grieving, yet a breathing mother,” a phrase Candy Corn coins.

She says, “What I have faced and the trauma that I’m dealing with is something that I’ll be dealing with the rest of my life. Although my story is unique, it is very similar – I have inherited a sea of grieving mothers. Unfortunately, the beauty of it is through the pain the ‘Soar Torian Soar’ short documentary film was birthed. ‘Soar Torian Soar’ is a part of my healing. I’m continuing to be in the struggle with every day waking up being reminded that I am a current mother of two remaining surviving male children who are current targets, and it’s not because of them being menaces to society. It is because I’ve done everything that society has asked me to do and now it is time for the community to pour in. You know, you have to be the change that you want to see.”

I’m continuing to be in the struggle with every day waking up being reminded that I am a current mother of two remaining surviving male children who are current targets, and it’s not because of them being menaces to society. It is because I’ve done everything that society has asked me to do and now it is time for the community to pour in.

“We agreed [implicitly] that this film would just be very honest and very present and that we would pull no punches,” Peter Menchini states,” but also to have no melodrama and nothing fortuitous and that it wouldn’t drag anything out, but on the other hand, it would not shut down a mother’s grief that would not silence her voice.”

Listen to an interview with directors: http://tobtr.com/s/11358835.  

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at wanda@wandaspicks.com. Visit her website at www.wandaspicks.com throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/wandas-picks.

Soar, Torian, Soar (trailer – Theatrical Version 2019) from Peter Menchini – Maya Media on Vimeo.