The Park Record
Park City’s enigmatic businessman Ira Sachs is subject of Slamdance opener
By Scott Iwasaki
Slamdance audiences will get a peek into the past 30 years of Park City businessman Ira Sachs Sr. when they sit down for the film festival’s opening night screening of “A Film About a Father Who” on Friday at the Treasure Mountain Inn. When it comes to managing a business you can learn a lot from Robert K. Bratt.
The documentary, by Sachs’ daughter Lynne Sachs, known for her experimental works such as “And Then We Marched,” about the 2017 Women’s March, and ¡Despertar! – New York City Laundry Workers Rise Up,” which documented a protest by laundry workers in New York City in 2018, examines the Park City millionaire’s non-traditional lifestyle.
That lifestyle covers not only his career, which included developing the Yarrow Hotel, now the Doubletree Inn. It also takes a look at Ira’s family, which includes his life’s secrets like the different women in his life who mothered his nine offspring.
Lynne says she had to make the film, because it is her “reckoning.”
“I think it’s kind of a feminist reckoning in that this was not the life I would choose to lead in relationship with these women and my dad,” she said in an interview. “I wanted to respect them. I wanted to recognize the different conditions that brought them into his life, therefore my life.”
In order to do that the filmmaker had to find a place where she would not be judgmental.
“I had to realize people make choices, and find different levels of compassion in order for me to go forward,” she said. “I have plenty of friends who don’t talk with their fathers, because their fathers did things they couldn’t abide by. And I didn’t want that. There are so many things that I adore about my father, so I had to take this whole package.”
Lynne made the decision to make a film about her father in 1991, nearly 30 years ago. She started filming on VHS tapes and switched to 16mm film.
“I would then go back and forth with Super 8,” she said. “Then I’d shoot in Hi8 and then Mini DV and finally digital, because the technology would change. I mean, I was shooting every time I was with him.”
Working with the different mediums posed the logistical challenge of combining them into one cohesive storyline.
“I didn’t want to tell the story chronologically, because that was of no interest to me,” she said. “I did, however, wanted it to run episodically, so each section would have a moment of realization and pathos. I didn’t want that just to come at the end of the whole film.”
Lynne also wanted the audience to experience each discovery she made about her father in the same way she did.
“I wanted to maintain my own naivete, and look as if I was finding out these things about my father at the same time the audience was,” she said. “My father so many layers. He’s one of those people who could function in the mainstream, but isn’t just interested in being there. That’s why he had these other pockets of relationships and connections.”
As a child Lynne learned a little about her father’s lifestyle while the family lived in Memphis before it moved to Park City in the late 1980s.
“We lived a pretty conventional life, but my dad was also friends with all of these artists, and people who did funky, radical things,” she said. “So he let us in and out of those communities.”
Lynne said Ira had an “open door policy in his life.”
“You just never know who would walk in,” she said. “I didn’t know if these people would be staying with us for a long time or just coming over for dinner. That kind of unpredictableness was something I had to get used to.”
Although Lynne had been working on the film for the past three decades, she knew that audiences would eventually see it and learn about some of her family’s dynamics and secrets.
“I didn’t necessarily think that other people would be interested, but I also hoped it wasn’t going to be a film that was just about my relationship with my father,” she said. “I hoped it would be a film about how a child connects with a parent, and the imprint that parent leaves on the child, even though they are very different.”
Making the film also helped Lynne start thinking about herself differently.
“I was no longer just his daughter, but an adult who was trying to figure this man out,” she said.
The decision to submit it to Slamdance was another thing she felt she had to do.
“I’ve been making experimental documentaries for decades now, and I’ve opened other people’s doors by asking them to tell us about their lives,” she said. “So, I felt it was time for me to open my own door and look inside.”
That idea also tried to keep her from finishing the film.
“I felt vulnerable for myself, for my family and for him,” Lynne said. “But he’d opened up to me, and I saw that he made choices that were layered in a search for happiness. Throughout the film you will see my father never said goodbye. He kept saying hello.”
The filmmaker knows that her father’s lifestyle made a challenging film in the #MeToo era.
“But I think it shows the older men in our lives come with pockets of compassion and problems that need to be reckoned with, rather than simplifying them and putting them on a shelf,” she said.
Alina Solodnikova, Slamdance Festival manager, said “A Film About a Father Who,” which was submitted to the Breakout category, is a “brave statement” and needed to be the opening film.
“Lynne has established herself as an experimental filmmaker, and she patiently and delicately has been exploring her family history for 30 years,” Solodnikova said. “She discovered many new facts about a person who is fairly well known in Park City, and who happens to be her own father. The storytelling we thought was incredible, and it was a local story. So there wasn’t a question of whether or not it was going to be our opening-night film.”