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Friday 30 October, 2020

They f**k you up, we all know it, but we probably f**k them up a bit too along the way.

As we look forward to welcoming two brilliant directors, Kirsten Johnson and Alan Berliner, who have made insightful and delightful films about their fathers - and their changing relationships with their fathers - this week on the blog we're looking at docs on dads.

Filmmakers delve back into the past to discover the men they never really knew; a director faces the reality of becoming a father himself; we follow sons growing up in their fathers' shadows and witness the pressures of handed down traditions.

Don't miss Kirsten Johnson In Conversation with Alan Berliner about her latest doc Dick Johnson is Dead. You can watch the film in your own time and join us for the free event on Wednesday 11th November, 7pm GMT.

Dick Johnson Is Dead / KIRSTEN JOHNSON  / 2020 / 89 mins

As her father's dementia encroaches, Kirsten Johnson embarks on a film project with him - staging multiple death scenes from a number of lurid accidents.

Filled with surprises from start to finish, the film won Sundance's Special Jury Award for Innovation in Non-Fiction storytelling. An elaborate, personal exploration of mortality and the workings of grief, by turns delightfully macabre and piercingly poignant. 

Watch the film on Netflix.

Nobody's Business / Alan Berliner / 1996  / 60 MINS

Alan Berliner takes on his father as the reluctant subject of this poignant and graceful study of family history and memory.

What emerges is a uniquely cinematic biography that finds both humour and pathos in the swirl of conflicts and affections that bind father and son.

Ultimately this complex portrait is a meeting of the minds - where the past meets the present, where generations collide, and where the boundaries of family life are pushed, pulled, stretched, torn and surprisingly at times, also healed.You can watch the film on Kanopy.

Of Fathers And Sons / Talal Derki / 2017 / 98 MINS

For 12-year-old Osama and his peers, childhood is about playfighting, mastering times tables and inventing new games. But in a war-torn Syria now taken over by radical jihadist networks, Osama’s playground is an abandoned tank, games are making bombs in water bottles and school graduation is an Al-Nusra training camp.

In this brave, unflinching documentary, director Talal Derki returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years.

His camera focuses on the eldest child Osama and his younger brother Ayman, gaining an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up in an Islamic Caliphate.

You can watch the documentary on BFI Player,  Kanopy, YouTubeAmazon , watch DocHouse's Director Q&A here.

Father Soldier Son / Leslye Davis & Catrin Einhorn /  2020  / 100 MINS

A fascinating companion piece to Talal Derki's tremendous Of Fathers and Sons, above, Father Soldier Son also explores the handing down of patriotic values and the will to fight from father to sons - but in this instance, the home turf is an American military family. 

Beginning as a year-long project on a US battalion, reporters-turned-filmmakers Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis kept filming after wounded soldier Brian Eisch returned home to his two young sons. For almost a decade, Einhorn and Davis remained with the Eisch family, observing with great intimacy the messy, turbulent, hard graft of real life.

A profound exploration of American manhood and the intergenerational effects of trauma, Father Soldier Son is a resonant portrait of a family growing up.

You can watch the film on Netflix and DocHouse's Director Q&A here.

51 BIRCH STREET / Doug Block / 2005 / 90 mins

Doug Block's 51 Birch Street reaches into the depths of his parents’ marriage, using home movie footage to explore the narratives that held his family life together, and coming to terms with the realities - complex and nuanced as they are - that he discovers. The death of his mother, followed within months by his father re-marrying was the catalyst for his film.

A few years later, Doug Block went on to direct another very personal documentary, this time about his experience of being a father himself, as he contemplates - with dismay - his daughter, Lucy, leaving home. Watch The Kids Grow Up (2009, 92 mins) on Amazon Prime

Watch 51 Birch Street on Amazon Prime and iTunes.

And it you want more Doug Block, and why wouldn't you, you can hear him talking about 'Making Personal Documentaries' here

Bare / Santana Issar / 2010 / 10 mins

This short doc follows a daughter's search to find meaning in her relationship with her father.

With family archive footage and phone call audio clips we learn about the journey of two sisters struggling to come to terms with their father's alcoholism.


THE NEW MAN / Josh Appignanesi & Devorah Baum / 2016 / 80 mins

Turning the camera on themselves, Josh and Devorah film the process of becoming parents at a time when late reproduction is the norm and masculinity is in crisis. Having been through multiple rounds of IVF, the couple finally get pregnant, but when complications hit, they’re pushed to their limits.

The New Man is a film for anyone who has children, is thinking of having them, or still feels like a child themselves.

Watch The New Man on Amazon Prime

Watch DocHouse's Q&A with Josh and Devorah, in partnership with The Guardian, hosted by Hadley Freeman here