I saw a great film on Saturday at the Cleveland International Film Festival. The film took us through the lives of 4 fathers from different parts of New York City and their daily struggles of finding work and making ends meet to provide for their kids. Fatherless homes are becoming more and more of a reoccurring theme here in the United States and the director, Emily Abt, really made it a point to show how hard men actually try to be in their kid’s lives. Before the film started, the director came up and shared words of why this film meant to much to her. Her grandfather escaped from Nazi Germany and went to New York to start over. Since he was both an immigrant and couldn’t speak English well, getting a job for him was impossible. The courts ordered him to pay child support but he didn’t have any money to give. Ripping the sleeves out of his pants pockets to prove that he has nothing to give. He just wanted to be a father and he unfortunately was never able to be one to his son. Hearing that story from her father gave Abt the inspiration to direct this film.
Once the film started, it introduced you to each father individually. Three of them lived in project housing in the Bronx and Queens and one of them lived with their parents in Long Island. As I was watching this film, I started getting emotionally attached to these people because you can physically see they have good intentions. Some used to be drug dealers or gang members and they completely dropped that life for their family. It’s quite amazing actually. None of these men have jobs or can keep a job, yet they still refuse to resort back to their old ways even though they are well aware that it’s a solid form of income. They refuse to put themselves in a situation that can take them away from their kids because they are destined to be better fathers to their kids than their fathers were to them. There is a small contrast throughout the film that I noticed over time that I’m glad the director was able to portray. The three men who were raising their kids in the inner city faced more adversity, it seemed like. One father who suffered from severe ADHD bounced from apartment to apartment then ultimately ended up in a homeless shelter. Another father went to jail for a prior offense before his two year old son. Now, the fact that those two men were both black and living in the projects while the single father in Long Island was white and living with his parents wasn’t an issue. The real issue to me was the fact that, all the men in the city wanted was to pick up and move to the suburbs. They wanted to get away from the city and the violence and the drugs and the 85% unemployment rates. The single white father that lived in long island, although served 6 years in prison when he was 17, he was lucky enough to have that family support system that the father in the inner city longed for. I’m glad she was able to show a different perspective in the aspect of your environment really is everything when it comes to how you’re able to bounce back from trials and tribulations.
Ultimately, this film is something that I would definitely see again someday because it really shows how hard it is to be a disadvantaged father and how many hoops fathers have to jump through in order to maintain sole custody of their kids. The idea that fathers are treated so unfairly in the court systems is an injustice in itself. If a mother is deemed unfit, the grandparents are most times looked at as more of a reliable option before a father will. There is a direct correlation to what a fatherless home can do to the youth and Emily Abt did a phenomenal job of showing how much fathers who actually try are greatly appreciated.