Cinematheque hosting Zoom Q&A with director Lynne Sachs regarding ‘Film About a Father Who’
Updated Jan 20, 12:44 PM; Posted Jan 20, 12:44 PM
By John Benson
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Digging into family secrets can be a tricky affair.
That’s what veteran filmmaker Lynne Sachs learned with her latest documentary “Film About a Father Who,” which tells the story of her pioneering Utah businessman father, Ira.
While the new documentary touches upon themes of fatherhood and masculinity, the director along the way discovers some surprising hidden truths about her dad, who fathered numerous children after divorcing her mother.
Using family videos and digital images of her father dating back decades, Sachs created an autobiographical essay movie in an attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings.
Not only is the Cleveland Institute of Art’s Cinematheque currently screening “Film About a Father Who” online, but the venue’s Director John Ewing will be moderating a free Q&A with director Lynne Sachs at 7 p.m. Tuesday via Zoom.
We recently caught up with the filmmaker to discuss the impetus behind the documentary and her father’s story.
Lynn, congrats on the film. Is it safe to assume you’ve been working on a documentary of your father for decades?
It all depends on what you would call work. If you started with the idea that one’s relationship with your parents is kind of working, there’s film footage going back to the mid-’60s so it kind of started there. But it also truly started with me as a filmmaker in 1991 when I decided that I wanted to make a film that helped me understand the medium and how it could give you an opportunity to get to know another person better. I actually made a film about a total stranger a few years later. Then I made a film about a distant relative. I thought the easiest one would be about my dad and it was definitely the hardest.
Despite trying your best to get answers about his past, your father proves successfully elusive in providing any concrete details about his actions — especially as it relates to other women.
With my dad, overt introspection wasn’t really part of his way of being. It just took me a long time to realize that. Maybe I evolved as a documentary filmmaker, where I saw that model as having a lot of limitations. I started to think about how you understand a person by the company they keep or how you understand them by the way they interact with the world or — even more — how they look at you. If they’re holding a camera and you have access to that material, then see something about their perception.
The film touches upon what was more than likely a traumatic incident your father experienced as a 3-year-old. Despite the fact he claims no memory of it, one could argue that defines his life and behavior.
My father always said he didn’t dream. I eventually realized he wasn’t keen on doing something that probably we do, which is to look at your childhood and figure out how that left an imprint on who you are. Now, I do believe that ruptures for children have a lasting impact. That’s the thesis or suggestion I want the film to have, which is not to say it makes excuses for behavior, but it gives context.
“Film About a Father Who” doesn’t shy away from casting your dad in unfavorable light regarding his philandering, which led to fathering numerous children with different women. Finally, how did he react to seeing the film?
He actually cried and he said to me, “I’ll try to do better in the future.” I don’t think he has any more kids, and I know he’s not going to have more. So far no one has materialized saying, “I’m the 10th child of Ira Sachs.” He never told me he had shame, but I don’t think shame is part of his vocabulary. The hardest thing for me was, I had two sisters that I didn’t know anything about. One is almost 40 years old, and I just met her a couple of years ago. I can say there were clues. I asked about them, I tried to follow those clues years ago and didn’t go anywhere with them. Am I culpable or complicit in that? I did my best.