Directors: Ricki Stern/Anne Sundberg
Break Thru Films
Here’s a very thoughtful mediation on reconciliation; the heartbreak and lasting impacts of addiction, the frustration of needing to acknowledge, of not being able to escape ones genes. Che “Rhymefest” Smith has songwriting credits on Kanye West’s Jesus Walks and the recent Academy and Golden Globe-winning Best Song for Glory. In between times he had a hyped solo album that tanked but has made his way in the world via radio and TV appearances, guest work and as a goodwill ambassador. He is the subject of In My Father’s House.
Smith never knew his father – he uses this film to get to know the man that walked away when he was a baby.
It’s not your traditional hardship tale, it’s not about the fact that Che Smith became Rhymefest, had success, moved on. It’s about the fact that he has to get to know his father, wants to, needs to – and is prepared to embrace Brian Tillman, without judging him. Tillman is Smith’s absentee father, he suffers from alcoholism, he’s been in and out of halfway homes and worse. And as the film rolls on we see that one of the many mansions in the father’s house is the idea that Smith is worried he has carried on the sins of his bad dad. Smith has a womanising past – and in hoping to make amends with Tillman, in getting to know him, he wants to understand himself as well as the dad he didn’t have.
It’s an emotional journey but the film is tightly helmed, never falling on over into melodrama, never getting mawkish with sentimentality. These are hard, grim lessons, tough reminders that people can – and will – let you down. It’s about the toughness that’s required in dealing with addiction and the harshness of the hurt when offenders re-offend, when the sickness seems unbeatable.
It’s been one of the highlights of my Documentary Edge Festival watching so far. A brilliant film. A lot to take in. And so well handled.
In My Father’s House is part of this year’s Documentary Edge Festival and has screened at Auckland’s Q Theatre, Friday May 22, Monday May 25 and Saturday May 30. It will screen at Wellington’s Roxy Cinema Friday June 5, Monday June 8 and Thursday June 11.