Film About A Father Who Film review (2021)

The filmmaker has been making films for a long time, building an archive of experimental feature films and short films. Some were offered, at the time of this writing, in an online virtual cinema festival at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, New York. Sachs is the sister of Ira Sachs (“Keep the Lights On”, “Love is Strange”), and based on the interviews collected here, the entire extended family has an artistic and / or literary mindset even when they are earns a living in another way. You hear a lot about how playful, adventurous and daring the father was back then, but also how emotionally distant (one child says he seemed to exist in a detached environment, rarely exhibiting extremes of euphoria / happiness or anger / sadness.

There are a lot of sardonic jokes about his sex life, which impacted the kids (and his eventual ex-wife) in a way that troubled everyone but him. The ostensible trigger for this film was the revelation in 2016 that there were two more children of another woman, beyond those who were already known, their names obscured in an insurance document. The film never gives any indication as to why this particular piece of information would shock the family when taking stock of the situation when the list of past outrages and scandals was so stupendously long. It’s not a failure, exactly, but it momentarily causes the viewer to ask questions that are beyond the scope of the film itself. One of the director’s siblings cries as she talks about learning in her youth that she had other siblings there, but being forced to wait to meet them because her father was adamant that they would not be linked until his own mother died. Why? She wants to know. Why place such a restriction on the truth? Who was protected?

Kaleidoscopic in both its assortment of materials and assembly, this feature doesn’t sort and organize all the different aspects of the father’s life so much as it sifts through them in a fixed and somewhat bewildered manner – like a detective examining the contents a thick file that spilled over the floor, correctly impressed with the amount of work to be done to even begin to understand all the complexities; or, to be more mundane, like a child who has learned a nasty new truth about a parent, in addition to the other nasty truths she already knew, and is in shock even as she tries to reframe the picture in a calm and rational manner.

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