By Sean Yoes
The opening of the romantic drama Stay, ripples with the energy of Tokyo street life. But, the length of the critically acclaimed film pulsates with an eclectic soundtrack with a heavy dose of House Music. The House genre has been popular in Japan for many years, so the infusion of the music, officially born in Chicago in the 1980’s, into the Stay film makes sense. But, it is the specific tracks selected for Stay that reveal the heavy Baltimore influence of the movie’s producer and director Darryl Wharton-Rigby, a native of West Baltimore.
“I personally selected every piece of music…There are several artists from Baltimore,” said Wharton-Rigby, while he was in town for the Baltimore International Film Festival (Stay won the “Best International Feature Film” award). The Stay soundtrack is an all-star cast of outstanding Baltimore-based artists who have had real international success. “There’s the one song that is kind of like the theme song by Marc Evans, “I Want You to Know.” There is another song in there from Winslow Dynasty with Dontae and Mashica (Winslow’s wife), DJ Oji has a couple of tracks in there. And Leah Gilmore sings that piece “Until I Found You” that bluesy, Gospel piece,” Wharton-Rigby added. “For me…at least if I can reach back to the folks I know who are musicians who have great music why not feature them?”
Wharton-Rigby, who grew up near Mondawmin Mall off of Gwynns Falls Parkway in West Baltimore, originally came up with the Stay story (starring Shogen and Ana Tanaka), which examines the life and romantic relationship of a recovering drug addict, after reflecting on his own father’s battle with addiction.
“When I first came up with the idea for the story, I originally was going to shoot it here in Baltimore. My father was in recovery for years and he actually used to help supervise some of the recovery houses,” Wharton-Rigby said. “So, it was something that I saw coming up. He reached a point in his life when he actually found somebody and I said hmm, this might be an interesting story.”
But, instead of shooting the story in Baltimore, he chose Japan where he met his wife and where he and his family live.
“We were in the process of looking to try to move more towards Tokyo and I saw an article about a recovery group in Japan,” Wharton-Rigby said. “And so…it didn’t dawn on me until that moment I had never heard anybody talk about drugs, or narcotics, anything that whole time I was there. You just think it doesn’t exist…but then when you see there’s a recovery group you’re like wooo, something’s here,” he added. “That seemed like a more interesting backdrop. Coming back to Baltimore it would seem like I’m just regurgitating the same thing that’s been done before.”
Wharton-Rigby originally traveled to Japan to work with MTV in 2003. Then after subsequently working on a film in Los Angeles, an experience he described as “a disaster,” he returned to Japan.
“Oddly enough life happened, I met my wife and the first kid was born,” he said. “You can look back and connect the dots of how things happen and realize if it wasn’t for this, this may not have happened.”
Wharton-Rigby’s first feature Detention was set at Douglass High School, just minutes from where he grew up and it took 20 years before he got the shot at his second feature.
“They say getting your second feature off the ground is harder than your first and I guess that’s true,” Wharton-Rigby said. He is building on the success of Stay on the film festival circuit in search of a distribution deal for the movie, which recently won the “Audience Choice Award” at the Royal Starr Film Festival in Royal Oak, Mich. But, ultimately he is focused on getting back home to his family.
“It’s a process we’re moving step by step,” he said. “And then I go back to Japan because I haven’t seen my wife and kids in a minute.”
This article originally appeared in The Afro.