By Katie Chambers
NYWIFT member Luchina Fisher’s powerful new film The Dads features fathers tackling tough, complex issues of parenthood, masculinity, and more – learning to love and support their children the best they can. On a fishing trip with Matthew Shepard’s father, five disparate dads discuss their love, hopes and fears for their trans kids in this short documentary. The film is screening now at DOC NYC, where is was named to the festival’s influential awards short list.
We spoke to director and producer Luchina Fisher about her personal connection to the dads, her exciting Netflix opportunity, and the film’s superstar supporter.
Congratulations on your DOC NYC screening! What does inclusion in the festival mean to you?
It’s a wonderful honor for the film, which made the annual DOC NYC Short List. It’s a great benchmark for me and my career, five years into my decision to transition from journalist to full-time filmmaker.
How did this meeting of the dads come about? Was it a deliberate choice to have them participate in such a stereotypically hyper-masculine (and silent) activity like fishing while having these heart-to-hearts about gender, identity, and fatherhood?
Three of these dads are avid outdoorsman and love to fish, hike, hunt, camp. They had actually been talking about taking a trip to the woods during a conference for LGBTQ youth by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). I overheard their conversation and thought that’s an interesting juxtaposition and I’d like to explore that more. What does it mean to be a father of a trans or LGBTQ child and show up for your child in the world?
I’d love to hear more about what drew you to the story, and how your own experiences affected your process. You’ve spoken before about being the parent of a trans child yourself.
I know most of these dads through my work on the Parents for Transgender Equality Council. As a mother of a transgender child, I use my work as a storyteller to make the world a safer place for my child and other trans youth. My first film, Mama Gloria, was the story of a mother’s love. The Dads builds on that work by exploring the role of fathers. I was grateful that HRC wanted to partner with me on making the short documentary, and about two years after we first started discussing it, we finally were able to film.
The film packs a lot of emotional complexity into a tight ten minutes. How do you as a filmmaker work within the short film format to maximize every moment of screentime for impact?
I always knew that The Dads would be a short, and I wanted to keep it around 10-15 minutes to make it as widely accessible to people who are flooded daily with content. But that didn’t make it any easier during the edit. I think ultimately the format forces you to think of every word, every visual as being central to the arc of the story and the impact you are creating. It’s like writing a poem versus a novel. The film packs an emotional punch and leaves people wanting for more.
What was the most surprising moment for you during filmmaking?
I was surprised in general by the depth and vulnerability with which each of the dads spoke. They instantly dived in – there was no holding back – which speaks to the level of trust and comfort they had with each other and me and my small crew.
How did Netflix get involved?
That was the most surprising moment after the release of the film! First of all, we premiered at SXSW, which had been my first choice for the film because of all the anti-trans legislation in Texas. We had an incredible sold-out screening with all the dads present. And then the next day, I received an email from a Netflix executive saying how much she loved the film and wanted to chat with me. Netflix not only came on board as a worldwide distributor for The Dads, but shortly after, NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, who is also the proud father of a trans child, came onto the project as an executive producer. The Netflix premiere happens on Nov. 17, during Transgender Awareness Week!
What do you hope audiences will take away from the film?
I hope the film opens the door to an important conversation about the role that parents, specifically fathers, play in a trans or LGBTQ child’s journey, as well as the importance of dads having a vocal community of other fathers around them. I would love to see the film spark more conversations around manhood, fatherhood, and brotherhood as a way of making the world a safer place for trans and LGBTQ youth.
What’s next for you?
Besides promoting The Dads, my other short Team Dream and my current feature Locked Out, about the barriers to Black homeownership, I am working on two new feature documentaries: Hiding in Plain Sight, about the unsung history of Black queer representation in music, which won Black Public Media’s top prize at PitchBlack earlier this year, and The Untitled Gary Fisher Project, about my brother, the late writer and activist who has recently been referred to as James Baldwin’s heir.
Luchina Fisher is the award-winning director and producer of the GLAAD Media Award-nominated feature documentary Mama Gloria; the short documentary The Dads, about five fathers of trans kids on a weekend fishing trip, executive produced by Dwyane Wade and premiering on Netflix this month; and the award-winning short documentary Team Dream, executive produced by Queen Latifah. She also co-directed the award-winning feature documentary Locked Out, about the barriers to Black homeownership, and won PitchBLACK Film Forum’s top prize for her new project about the unsung history of Black queer representation in music.
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