Groundbreaking DVD from FIRA's New Fathers Cluster
Giving a Voice to Young Dads: FIRA’s Young Fathers Cluster Produces a Groundbreaking New Documentary on DVD
What do we think we know about teenaged fathers?
If we're honest, most of us would have to admit we have assumptions and beliefs, but little in the way of real knowledge about young fathers. Anybody who wants to actually know about men who become dads in their teens - how they see themselves, the challenges they face, and how they feel about their children — should watch Believe in me!/Je suis là!. This new DVD chronicles the work of FIRA's Young Fathers Cluster, led by Annie Devault, professor of social work at the Université du Québec en Outaouais Believe in me!/Je suis là! is the first Canadian film to provide a window into the lives and, more importantly, the minds of a group of young dads. The 26-minute documentary, made by Tamás Wormser, of Artesian Films, gives young fathers a voice: a chance to talk about their aspirations, their frustrations, their mistakes, their pride in the children and also the enormous obstacles they face if they want to be involved in their children's lives.
Obstacles include everything from the young men's own mistakes, lack of education, upreparedness to assume the role of father, their low status in the eyes of the courts and the child protection system, and the circumstances they grew up in. Some of the men speak of growing up without a father, of parents who were not always there for them. In some cases it becomes clear that early parenthood goes back several generations in certain families. But most of all, the young men talk about how many people and societal institutions don't even consider the possibility that they could ever play a positive role in their children's development.
Some young fathers surmount these obstacles over time. One father interviewed in the film, became a dad when he was only 14. This young man is now 27, the father of four, two of whom live with him full-time, and working as a security guard. He and the other fathers talk about the happiness they derive from their connection with their children. One says that helping his daughter to walk and teaching her new words made him feel good about himself. From the way he talks about it, it's clear that this young man has spent much of his life not feeling good about himself. As Chapman Uko, who first established the Ottawa Young Father's program, where much of the film's footage was shot explains, "These young men have never been made to feel that they are competent at anything."
Another father, talked about how hard it was to even contemplate doing all the things he needs to do to get his life together so he will be allowed to see his daughter more frequently. He wonders how any authority could see him as fit to care for a child when he's attending an all-adult high school, working for minimum wage and living in a rooming house.
But as the title suggests, "Believe in me!" is the young fathers' main underlying message, even though none of them say those specific words. Believe in me!/Je suis là! forces the viewer to confront his or her own assumptions. Do we simply write young fathers off? Or do we give them a chance to show us what they can accomplish? And how do we think young men will become responsible parents if we don't provide them with the supports and services available to young mothers?
Believe in me!/Je suis là! is an essential resource to anyone who works with young fathers or young mothers.
Believe in me!/Je suis là!
Produced by Artesian Films and the Young Fathers Cluster of the Father Involvement Research Alliance
26 minutes, DVD, English and French language subtitled versions on the same DVD
Limited single copies are available for $10.00 from Dad Central Ontario.