Finally, someone is making a film about America’s often overlooked and unappreciated dads. I’m not talking shiny, happy, Cosby-esque fathers, or suburbanite Modern Family dads, I’m talking about men struggling to make ends meet. Men trying hard to correct past mistakes and do right by their kids. Men we often dismiss as bad fathers because of their circumstances and struggles. The film I’m talking about is a documentary titled Daddy Don’t Go and it’s currently on Kickstarter seeking your support.
According to co-directors, Emily Abt and Andrew Osborne, Daddy Don’t Go “…chronicles the lives of 4 young men in NYC who are trying to be good dads against the odds.” On the film’s Kickstarter campaign page they break it down in even more detail, saying of the film:
Daddy Don’t Go is a feature length documentary that captures a year in the lives of four young men in New York City as they struggle against poverty to reach their full potential as fathers. The film poses urgent questions that expand the ongoing national dialogue concerning fatherhood. Can a man be a good dad in spite of not being a great provider? How does being a father shift a man’s identity? In true vérité style, Daddy Don’t Go will capture the crucial, intimate father-child relationship over time and without censorship. Alex, Nelson, Omar and Roy shatter the deadbeat dad stereotype, redefining what it means to be a good father for all men.
It’s impossible to talk about men and masculinity without talking about fathers and fatherhood at some point. Sadly, I’ve found that most discussions and depictions of fatherhood focus exclusively on the experiences of middle-class and above fathers. Look back, for example, at the ads and other videos depicting fatherhood that I’ve discussed here on HowManly.com. Consider as well the many family related movies and TV shows airing each year. How are fathers usually depicted in each of these? Most of the media we consume is aspirational in some way, so the men you see generally don’t appear to be struggling with poverty or other serious economic issues. Our various forms of media typically depict things not as they are, but rather how we’d like them to be, imagine them to be, or are being told they can or should be. As a result, the experiences of poor, impoverished or in other ways economically disadvantaged people are often overlooked and/or flat out ignored.
This film, to me, holds the potential to open up the conversation about what it means to be a man and a father in a world that doesn’t look like the white bread, suburban wonderland that’s so often upheld as the ideal we should all strive for. I know plenty of men who’s reality looks more like the ones depicted in this film than that middle-class ideal. In fact, this film also strikes a personal chord with me because life with my father often reflected some of these harsher realities.
As a kid, I lived on both sides of the economic coin with my father. At one point we lived the middle class ideal and at others we were poor and even for a time, homeless. At one point in my teen years, my brother, father and I lived in a motel room and ate from “dollar menus” every day (before they were calling them dollar menus). Once we were housed again (in a tiny apartment) we often struggled to pay rent, bills and put food on the table. Life with my father was rarely easy (for more than just economic reasons) but I’ve always appreciated the sacrifices he made to be a father when he could have easily just walked away.
I am thrilled that a documentary about America’s often overlooked fathers is being made and although I’ve only seen the trailer, I’m confident the film will meet my expectations. In the end, if the film manages to unveil this often ignored slice of life, while portraying its subjects with respect, then I’ll be glad I supported it.
If you’d like to join me in supporting the film, the Kickstarter campaign ends Thursday, December 5th. I ask you to take some time, visit the campaign page and decide for yourself.