As Slamdancewrapped last night, the grand jury award for best narrative feature went to Heather Young’s The portrait of a woman in her sixties who takes on more pets than she can handle won the FIPRESCI Prize when it premiered in Toronto last fall. This year’s Slamdance opened with Lynne Sachs’s Film About a Father Who, an exploration of familial bonds and tensions. The film will screen on February 11 as part of MoMA’sDoc Fortnight, and Ira Sachs, Lynne’s brother and the director most recently of Frankie, calls Film About a Father Who “one of Lynne’s most searingly honest works.” She discusses its making at the Talkhouse, and in a piece for Grasshopper Film, she writes about the impact the work ofJean-Luc Godard has had on her own: “Risk became my task and not my nemesis.”
One of the most compelling and buzzed-about features to debut at this year’s Slamdance film festival in Park City, Utah is Lynne Sachs’ documentary Film About a Father Who and ComingSoon.net got the opportunity to talk with the filmmaker to explore the very personal project that focuses on the connection a child has to their parents and how it shapes them into who they will become.
Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. Film About a Father Who is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
When it came to diving into this tale and learning of her father’s web of secrets, Sachs didn’t view it as wanting to tell a story but would rather become engaged in the material in a “documentarian way” as she followed him around with a camera asking him questions.
“It sort of made that collaboration between me and my father more, in his mind, serious or professional or fun because it was like a creative thing that we were doing instead of just a home movie,” Sachs described. “Years later, once you’ve lived that life, it’s like the story becomes something that unfolds in a way that takes on the shape and the structure. But at the beginning, it was just that I had this very interesting dad that I knew from way back when, day one, and sometimes it was challenging to have a dad who’s so different from everybody else’s. But then, when I became an adult, I said ‘Hey, maybe I was lucky that I had a father who didn’t play by the rules and that had an imprint on me.”
Sachs found that this not playing by the rules mentality her father had with life would sometimes bleed over into interviewing him on camera, as he was known to give pushback regarding certain questions she would ask.
“I’d say he was cooperative and he was a collaborator, but in a way, maybe I’d say he set up the rules,” Sachs said. “It wasn’t until much later that I kind of got the picture that my father was, in a sense, a performer or an actor on multiple stages. I just didn’t know how many stages he was being himself, but himself in various ways. I kind of realized that it was a bit like a Cubist painting, a Picasso painting, where you’re never really just looking at one façade, you have multiple façades, so it just took me years to understand that.”
Diving into her father’s life and secrets was a fairly emotional time for Sachs, learning about the multiple women he kept secret from her and her siblings, as well as him having fathered children with said women. Exploring this situation, Sachs describes, was essential to tying together the themes of how one’s place is tied to their connection to their parents.
“When you look at a photograph and you have the darkest blacks and you have these white, well-lit areas, and then you have all of the scale in between,” Sachs said. “I and my siblings, too, we had a lot of low moments because as a child or as an adult, you come to certain stages of your life where you think you might not understand who you are, at least as a child. Even if you’re 30 or 40 or 50, you’re still someone’s child and you understand it. If it keeps changing, it’s very unsettling, and it can be like a seismic reaction. So in some ways, the film helped me to kind of calibrate that and to work through it and to know that I’m my own person. So that’s a very mythic thing to say, I am separate from my parents, I know he or she is there, but I am separate. So then, if I can find that, and maybe I found that through the making of the film, then I could move on. It’s been very interesting to see how many people, no matter what age, are still trying to reckon with who they are in relationship to where they came from.”
Having started the documentary in ’84, Sachs began shooting it on 16 mm film and as technology evolved over the years she would eventually transition to 8 mm film for some of its filming but found herself returning to the older tech frequently.
“The only kind of camera that is consistent throughout the whole film is 16 mm film, the only really stable material is 16 mm film,” Sachs said. “Even knowing this from being in the film business or industry, everybody keeps saying film is dead, we can now say tape is dead but film still exists. That material to most people’s eye looks the most beautiful, so even as the technology becomes more and more sophisticated or state of the art, there is a kind of lushness and a kind of aesthetic pleasure that you get from film. There is a scene in the film where I do these interviews with my father’s second wife and one of his girlfriends, and that was shot in 16 mm with sound. That is a lot of equipment because I was using a big 16-mm camera and this kind of very professional audio and then video came in and we were all saying, ‘Oh, now it’s easy, now it’s all in one camera, sound, and image.’ But the problem is you compromise the quality of the image and the beauty of it for the ease of it, so I was always going back to 16 mm because I was really drawn to the texture of the image.”
With a lot of material and different styles of shooting over the years, Sachs took her time pouring over everything and putting it all together, finding that even some of what she considered flaws actually translated into a very helpful style of filmmaking for her themes.
“When I was watching the material, it took a year to really watch all of it and I transcribed everything,” Sachs recalls. “I was very, very critical of some of my shooting because I said, ‘Oh, the camera was shaking or why was I paying attention to what was being delivered to the table rather than what the person who would be —all these things that one does when in real life. Then I thought, maybe it becomes more personal — it’s not that I was trying to make excuses, but maybe it brings this connection between the person behind the camera and the person or whatever’s happening in front of the camera.”
Day four of Slamdance and Sundance coverage includes a segment with the girls of TAHARA, a narrative feature about the teenage complications of lust, social status, and wavering faith. Director Olivia Peace, writer Jess Zeidman, and actresses Madeline Grey DeFreece and Rachel Sennott join the Daily Buzz for a fun conversation about this crowd-pleasing Jewish film. We speak with filmmaker, Lynne Sachs, about her opening night Slamdance film, FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO. It’s a “personal meditation” on her father, Ira Sachs, who was also a prominent businessman in Park City, UtahWe also speak with Justin Simien and actress Elle Lorraine regarding the “Midnight” film about a scalp trauma, BAD HAIR. There’s one other roundtable with Greek-born French actress, Ariane Labed, and Slamdance Episodic participants, Scout Durwood and Kacy Boccumini. We talk to these ladies about OLLA, the directorial debut for Ariane Labed, and TAKE ONE THING OFF, a series of episodes that blend comedy and music, from director, writer, and star Scout Durwood and producer Kacy Boccumini. The two films seem so different, but there are so many similarities. You’ll have to listen to find out how it all connects!
Welcome to Season 8! In this episode, we invite back our old friend and cohost Summre Garber to talk about the documentary slate at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, where she is co-captain of the documentary- features program. We learn what she is up to now and hear about her favorites at this year’s fest. In addition, Bart and Chris interview the directors of two of those movies, Film About a Father Who (Lynne Sachs) and Jasper Mall (Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb). Enjoy! As always, you can and the audio of the episode on our “episodes” page, on Apple Podcasts and other sites.
Park City got a glimpse into the complicated personal life of a local legend Friday. The flamboyant developer and entrepreneur Ira Sachs Sr. is profiled in a documentary that premiered opening night of the Slamdance Film Festival.
“Film About A Father Who,”directed by Ira’s daughter Lynne Sachs, is an experimental film that weaves footage of her family — shot between 1984 and 2019 — into a portrait of a man who, while charming and gregarious publicly, is depicted as emotionally stunted and difficult to connect with in private. A serial womanizer, he fathered nine children with six women and had countless girlfriends.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the film offers a daughter’s unique perspective on the relationship between powerful men and the women in their lives.
“I had to figure out, well, do I ignore that or do I say — that actually is similar to what a lot of young women go through?” Lynne said. “They try to see, well, what is the connection between how my father is in the world and the men you want to be with or the men you date?”
Ira, now 83 and living in Florida, first came to Park City in the 1970s. He moved there full-time in the mid-80s, and quickly became a local fixture. He was the driving force behind a number of significant developments in the area, including the city’s first two-story hotel, the Yarrow on Park Avenue, which is now the DoubleTree Hilton. He was also known for his generosity, delivering food to local homeless shelters and bringing winter coats to public schools every winter.
Lynne said though that Park City never quite lost the bohemian exuberance it had when her father first showed up.
As for what she’d like viewers to take away:
“I hope I’ve created something that allows people to feel compassion for people who aren’t perfect, who make choices that are not their choices,” she said.
“Film About A Father Who” is playing as part of the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City. The last screening is Monday, Jan. 27 at 11 a.m. Slamdance runs alongside the Sundance Film Festival, featuring independent films with budgets of less than $1 million and without U.S. distribution deals.
Despite his presence in the community, Ira appears guarded in the film. He’s reluctant to answer personal questions, often deflecting with a joke or a shrug. And while Lynne said her father has always been supportive of her and her career goals, he rarely gave that same kind of support and attention to the other women in his life.
“I think it’s a film that asks us what do we as women want from the men we attach ourselves to?” she said. “And what do we sacrifice [in the process]?”
For Park City residents who know Ira, either personally or by reputation, he might also serve as a parallel to the city itself. It began as a mining town in the 19th century but has transformed into a destination for the rich and famous, both as a ski resort and the site of the country’s largest film festival.
“[My father] loves to hike [and] he loves to look at the Wasatch Mountains, but he also is a developer,” Lynne said. “That’s the contradiction of a place like Park City, when people say, I love the mountains and the trees, but I need a seven-bedroom house that has heating in every single room.”
Ira Sachs, now in his 80s, started adult life out as a seemingly content married father of three, before transforming himself, later, into a successful real-estate developer dubbed “the Hugh Hefner of Park City.” That’s Park City, Utah, where Sachs has opened a number of properties, including one that is now the DoubleTree by Hilton Park City (formerly The Yarrow), never losing the hippie vibe he cultivated in the 1960s, his slowly graying locks ever flowing. Buildings are not all he developed, however; accumulating lovers as the years wore on, he also built a growing family, not all the members of which were known to the others. Now, one of his daughters from that original marriage, the experimental filmmaker Lynne Sachs (Tip of My Tongue) – whose brother, Ira Sachs Jr., is also a director (of Little Men, among others) – has completed a documentary, Film About a Father Who, about her father’s complicated life and her evolving relationship with him. It’s a fascinating probe into the mysteries of the human mind and heart.
We begin with the man today, Lynne cutting his hair, before launching into a past documented via footage shot by Sachs père, Sachs fils and, bien sûr, Sachs fille, among others, from 1969 to now. In a variety of formats, each textured with the look of its respective era, we jump backwards and forwards through time, watching the family mature. Beyond the primary subject, there is his own mother – affectionately called Maw-Maw – with whom Ira Sr. has a close bond, though not so close that he tells her of all the children he’s fathered, lest she cut him off from his expected inheritance. There are also all Lynne’s siblings, full and half, as well as Lynne’s mother and some of her father’s many (increasingly much younger) romantic and sexual partners from yesterday and today. In interviews and many bits of observational footage, Ira appears to have but one obsession: women. But they like him, too, so where’s the harm? That, indeed, is the question.
For Ira Sachs is not just a narcissist: he’s a warm and giving person who is capable of love…if not for very long. As Lynne and her brothers and sisters grapple with their father’s legacy, they are forced to confront the fact that someone who doesn’t set out to cause damage can nevertheless inflict much of it. He’s a man with many shades of gray, for sure. Beyond this multifaceted portrait, however, A Film About a Father Who is also remarkable for its terrific synthesizing of the wealth of archival material. Given the breadth of the narrative span, it’s extraordinary that the director fits the story into a compact length of just 73 minutes, yet, masterfully, she does. Given her extremely personal connection to the story, it’s astonishing how deeply she investigates the good and the bad in a person she clearly loves. This gripping documentary, the opener of the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, speaks its truth and speaks it beautifully. Let it be heard.
Director: Lynne Sachs Editor: Rebecca Shapass Composer: Stephen Vitiello
Film About a Father Who is visionary filmmaker Lynne Sachs’ method of processing her father’s complicated legacy. The opening of the film — a comb pulled gently through the mass of Ira Sachs’ hair by disembodied fingers — subtly states its purpose and challenge.
Sachs tells her father as he protests her ministrations — unravelling knots, unweaving the complex — this is the goal of Film About a Father Who, and audiences will be split as to the success of this project. Sachs begins with grainy home video footage that serves a literal and analogical purpose. The first purpose is to literally showcase her earlier experiences with her father, and the second, to replicate the hazy nostalgia of childhood. Within minutes, the outline of the tangle of Ira Sachs begins to emerge: fast moving and witty, reticent and loquacious by turns, quintessential capitalist with defiant hippie pretensions — driven by money but not quite given over to it. Sachs approaches her subject with a patient curiosity, weaving different characters into the story with aplomb.
A signature flourish of Film About a Father Who is the film’s clear-eyed but sympathetic look at perhaps the biggest influence on Ira Sachs’ life: his mother. Lynn Sachs takes great pains to show us that the specter of his mother looms over every portion of her father’s life. Ira’s mother serves as kind of an example of the expectations and failures that make Ira such an enigma to his offspring. Although themes of failure, dishonesty, avarice, crave-ness and selfishness make up the core of this story, Sachs never loses sight of the humanity of her subject. Even when full bore denunciation is seemingly obligated by the oft infuriating narrative, Sachs retains an emotional reserve. In this sense, Sachs imitates her subject — this reserve serves Sachs well, as the cast of characters continually expands, with ex-wives and girlfriends, secret siblings, and family members all making appearances.
Quotes from the assembled characters could easily read like witness statements in the indictment of a protagonist’s character, but for the most part, Sachs situates them so firmly within the narrative of Ira Sachs that she takes the sting out of their revelations. In one particular interview Sachs veers uncomfortably close to emotional manipulation but with good reason. Overall, Sachs’ artistic distance from her subject allows her to present the most incendiary moments in an almost matter of fact way, enabling the viewer to make an emotional connection based off the information alone.
The music, orchestrated by Stephen Vitiello is note perfect. Whimsical when necessary, ominous at times, and occasionally inquisitive — the music always adds and never detracts. Sachs also invests this movie with several subtexts worth mentioning: how the sexual revolution unequally empowered men and women, and how ‘lads’ culture defenestrates boys — while never losing sight of her main objective. In certain moments Sachs allows us to see the whirring gears of the documentary, taking us behind the curtain. This self-conscious artificiality adds to the artistic pretensions of the movie and establishes Film About a Father Who as a documentary of both style and substance. Lynne Sachs approaches this documentary with the mentality of an artist, and the attentiveness of a daughter — the result is a searing look at the depravity of toxic masculinity, the destructiveness of secrets and the resiliency of the human spirit.
Criterion Channel streaming premiere with 7 other films, Oct. 2021.
Documentary Feature Award, Athens Film and Video Festival, Oct. 2021.
Best Feature Documentary Audience Award, Mimesis Documentary Festival, Jan. 2022
Selected Virtual Theaters: Laemmle Theaters, Los Angeles; Roxie Theatre, Los Angeles; Philadelphia Film Society; The Belcourt, Nashville; Utah Film Center, Salt Lake City; Cleveland Cinematheque; Brattle Theatre, Cambridge, MA; Northwest Film Forum, Seattle; Facets, Chicago; Cine-File, Chicago; Austin Film Society; The Cinematheque, Vancouver, BC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Maysles Cinema, NYC.
Over a period of 35 years between 1984 and 2019, filmmaker Lynne Sachs shot 8 and 16mm film, videotape and digital images of her father, Ira Sachs Sr., a bon vivant and pioneering businessman from Park City, Utah. FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO is her attempt to understand the web that connects a child to her parent and a sister to her siblings. With a nod to the Cubist renderings of a face, Sachs’ cinematic exploration of her father offers simultaneous, sometimes contradictory, views of one seemingly unknowable man who is publicly the uninhibited center of the frame yet privately ensconced in secrets. In the process, Sachs allows herself and her audience inside to see beyond the surface of the skin, the projected reality. As the startling facts mount, Sachs as a daughter discovers more about her father than she had ever hoped to reveal.
“FILM ABOUT A FATHER WHO is a personal meditation on our dad, specifically, and fatherhood and masculinity more generally. The film is one of Lynne’s most searingly honest works. Very proud of my sister, as I have been since we were kids, and so deeply inspired.” – Filmmaker & brother, Ira Sachs, Jr.
Sachs achieves a poetic resignation about unknowability inside families, and the hidden roots never explained from looking at a family tree.
—Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
“Explores the complexities of a disparate family and a nexus of problems revolving around a wayward, unconventional, elusive patriarch…formidable in its candour and ambition.”
—Jonathan Romney, Screen International
“In Film About a Father Who … Sachs never seems to intimate that her perspective is universal but, rather, that having a perspective is.”
—Kat Sachs, MUBI Notebook
“Sachs goes to places that most … moviemakers avoid, undercutting the image of the past as simpler or more stable than the present.”
-—Pat Brown, Slant Magazine
“(Sachs’) own practice can be understood as a process of grammatical excellence; each thought, memory, scene, time and space given pause and punctuated by still more dancing light.” In Film About a Father Who, (she) admits that she is filming as a way of finding transparency. It is the ultimate in searching for cinematic veracity. She finds something beautiful and deeply moving, here…. Film About a Father Who is her greatest achievement yet.”
—Tara Judah, Ubiquarian
“This divine masterwork of vulnerability weaves past and present together with ease, daring the audience to choose love over hate, forgiveness over resentment. Sachs lovingly untangles the messy hair of her elusive father, just as she separates and tends to each strand of his life. A remarkable character study made by a filmmaker at the top of her game– an absolute must see in Park City.”
—Michael Gallagher, Slamdance Programmer
“Here we have a family. And most families have fall-outs. And the ruptured and the intense one in Lynne’s film—amazing documentary—reveals how far blood lines can stretch without losing connection altogether. Though this is an extremely personal film, and asks us several times to really choose between love and hate, she’s really exploring a universal theme that we all think about from time to time, which is the extent to which one human being can really know another. And in this case, it’s her dad.“
—Peter Baxter, President and co-founder of Slamdance speaking on KPCW Radio, Park City, Utah
“The film is bookended with footage of Lynne Sachs attempting to cut her aging father’s sandy hair, which — complemented by his signature walrus mustache — is as long and hippie-ish as it was during the man’s still locally infamous party-hearty heyday, when Ira Sachs Sr. restored, renovated and lived in the historic Adams Avenue property that is now home to the Mollie Fontaine Lounge. ‘There’s just one part that’s very tangly,’ Lynne comments, as the simple grooming activity becomes a metaphor for the daughter’s attempt to negotiate the thicket of her father’s romantic entanglements, the branches of her extended family tree and the thorny concepts of personal and social responsibility.”
—John Beiffus, Memphis Commercial Appeal
“’Film About a Father Who,’ whose title was inspired by Yvonne Rainer’s ‘Film About a Woman Who…,’ is a consideration of how one man’s easygoing attitude yielded anything but an easy family dynamic as it rippled across generations. The movie runs only 74 minutes, but it contains lifetimes.“
—Ben Kenigsberg, The New York Times
Poster for “Film About a Father Who”
Film About a Father Who on 9 Best Films of 2021 Lists
Ubiquarian: “The Process is the Practice: Prolific and poetic, experimental and documentary filmmaker, Lynne Sachs, lights up this year’s online edition of Sheffield Doc|Fest with a mini-retrospective, annotated lecture and her new feature, Film About a Father Who (2020)” by Tara Judah, June 21, 2020 http://ubiquarian.net/2020/06/the-process-is-the-practice/
Ynet: Israel’s most comprehensive, authoritative daily source in English for breaking news and current events, “I Watched Rabin’s Funeral, I Named My Daughter Noa – Interview with Lynne Sachs” by Amir Bogen, Sept. 8, 2020. https://www.ynet.co.il/entertainment/article/B1TCDpmmP
“The Artful, Experimental and Brilliant Study of a Promiscuous Father Headlining Sheffield Autumn Programme” by Benjamin Hollis, Oct. 2, 2020
Trust Movies: “‘Lynne Sachs’ ‘Film About a Father Who’ breaks new ground in the “family” documentary department” by James Van Maanen, January 15, 2021. https://trustmovies.blogspot.com/2021/01/lynne-sachs-film-about-father-who.html
In the film, Sachs uses thirty-five years of footage shot across a variety of mediums and situations detailing the life of her father, a businessman from Park City, Utah, and his relationship with his family. Like any memoir, this movie is heavily dependent on the audience connecting with the film’s subject for the narrative to work, and because of Sachs’s obvious passion for the story she is telling, the movie is mostly effective.
The most interesting thing about this film is the morally ambiguous way in which the filmmaker presents her father. Similar to any parent-child relationship, there are plenty of ups and downs, and Sachs does a good job of representing these realistically. Over the course of the movie, viewers will see Sachs as her opinion of her father shifts based on his actions in the moment.
Ultimately, the film does feel like it starts to lose a bit of steam in the middle, but that is because of the extremely unorthodox narrative structure of the movie. While there is an arc in the film, it isn’t made
The main idea that Sachs explores in her film is the obligation that a person has to their family. On one hand, this serves as a document as to who her father was, but the movie is even more effective when it is a complex examination of the role that her father played in her life. The other portions of the film are compelling, but feel a bit more commonplace.
Often it seems like Sachs intended the movie to be a much more emotional experience than it actually is. It is evident that making this film was an important part of Sachs’s own growth, as it allows her to put her feelings to words, but those emotions do not extend to the audience as they likely should.
Unfortunately, this is caused by something that is also one of Sachs’s biggest strengths: her visual style. Sachs has an undeniable command of the craft, and she obviously knows how to tell a story in a visually impressive way. However, the fact that this film feels so aesthetically-driven distracts from some of the humanity that it contains.
Lynne Sachs’s newest documentary Film About a Father Who has some very interesting parts, but it likely could have benefitted from another pass. Still, Sachs’s talent makes this a documentary worth seeing.
Film About a Father Who debuted at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival which runs January 24-30 in Park City, UT
While director Lynne Sachs admits her latest documentary Film About a Father Who could be superficially construed as a portrait (the title alludes to and the content revolves around her father Ira), she labels it a reckoning instead. With thirty-five years of footage shot across varied formats and devices to cull through and piece together, the result becomes less about providing a clear picture of who this man is and more about understanding the cost of his actions. Whether it began that way or not, however, it surely didn’t take long to realize how deep a drop the rabbit hole of his life would prove. Sachs jumped in to discover truths surrounding her childhood only to fall through numerous false bottoms that revealed truths she couldn’t even imagine.
What shouldn’t be lost amidst Ira’s growing list of transgressions is the fact Lynne loves him regardless. Each revelation is obviously tough to swallow, but she meets them with a foot in two worlds. They affect her personally as far as familial connections go, but also intellectually as an artist capturing this emotional story in real time. So while knowing what she knows can’t help but color him as a selfish person possessing little remorse where it concerns the impact of his choices upon others, he’s still her father. He’s still a “good” man who treated Lynne and her two siblings (Dana and Ira Jr.) with love. She doesn’t therefore pry when Ira consistently pleads the fifth. She knows he’ll never confront what he doesn’t think was wrong.
In his mind it wasn’t. In his mind divorcing her mother was an act of grace because he knew he couldn’t live his life monogamously. That doesn’t stop him from marrying again, having affairs again, or continuing destructive patterns shrouded in secrecy again. Ira is a man of contradictions and impulses that he’ll never escape. He’s a man who’s willing to overlook the idiosyncrasies of others because he wants you to overlook his—comfortable in the reality that yours will probably never touch his in a million years. And with each new chapter in his swinging lifestyle arrives more collateral damage. Each new woman on his arm or in his bed brings with her an ever-escalating danger due to a desire not to hide despite hiding so much.
And through it all is a home video of three children playing—a happy moment removed from the rest. We hope Ira shared similar moments with all his children no matter their mothers’ identities, but that isn’t realistic. To hear Lynne interview her father’s second wife Diana Lee for her side of their story reveals as much even if we get a sense that her sons Evan and Adam were loved. Can the same be said about Mallory Chaffin and her daughter Annabelle, though? What about Madison Geist and her mother? What about the potential for more? At a certain point Ira simply can’t give them everything they need and keep up appearances with a mother (Rose Sachs) who doesn’t approve (and lives past one hundred years old).
Therein lies the reckoning. Lynne and those who came first must reconcile what every new character means to them. Can they love each as members of their family despite initial contact happening well past the point of “normal” introduction? Can they continue seeing their father in the same light after discovering the diminishing levels of economic and moral security their successors faced in part because of what they had? Just because Ira didn’t feel (or at least show) guilt doesn’t mean his offspring won’t once they’re exposed to the truth. The psychological ramifications are too extensive and too catastrophic to sweep under the rug. Lynne’s daughter and half-sister being the same age is awkward, but another half-sister living in poverty unaware that this support system existed is monstrous.
They must all live with it now and deal with the vulnerability of those less fortunate than them, knowing they were purposefully prevented from doing anything to help. That’s a lot to take in and even more to willingly put out into the world via cinema. So many of those on-screen break down into tears because of the weight of their existence within this one perpetually smiling man’s shadow. Some can’t stop themselves from loving him unconditionally or in certain cases irrationally and others can’t wait to use the insanity of their experience as an example of what not to do when building their own families in the aftermath. To everyone’s credit, however, nobody runs from it. They face the challenges of their unwieldy family with open arms.
And Lynne Sachs captures it with immense compassion. She could have vilified her father, but doing so wouldn’t have changed anyone’s current circumstances. Instead she lets his actions speak for themselves thanks to his duplicity being caught on camera multiple times throughout these last three decades. She lets her extended branch of siblings speak their truth and exorcise their demons without judgment. Everything is laid out and they must now do what they must to accept it. This film isn’t therefore about righting wrongs, but exposing facts Ira kept locked away until it either benefitted him or could no longer stay hidden. Knowing their happiness came at the price of another’s pain (and vice versa) is the burden he bestowed upon them. Their hope is to be better.