N.Y. Film Festival Unites New Yorkers to be Better Fathers

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NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. — They sat in a room, father and son, with cash stacked to the ceiling, seemingly all the money in the world at their fingertips, yet they starved.

This is the story of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, told through the eyes of his son, Sebastian Marroquin in the documentary “Sins of My Father,” one of 10 films showcased at the Fatherhood Image Film Festival over the weekend throughout Harlem and the Bronx. The metaphor, a father and son flush with material wealth but emotionally starved, was one that spoke to the festival’s theme of driving home the importance of a father as something more than just being a breadwinner, but a source of emotional sustenance as well.

A “media-based assault” on fatherhood problems plaguing American society, the inaugural Fatherhood Image Film Festivalbrought together hundreds of New Yorkers from all walks of life and united them for a single, straightforward cause: how to be a better father.

Bob McCullough Jr., one of the co-founders of the festival, said they saw the need for a fatherhood-based film festival after making a film about his own father, Bob McCullough Sr., the founder of the National Association of Each One Teach One Inc.

“I was examining my own fatherhood and realized how hard it was. Then I examined the work I did as a filmmaker and human services director for youth development – I realized many of the youth I served were in absent father households, and something needed to change,” McCullough said.

What started as a “Kickstarter-type” project on Changemakers.com quickly developed into New York City’s first ever film festival based solely on the topic of fatherhood, McCullough Jr. said.

“We need more positive examples of fatherhood in the media, and we need to make those positive examples accessible to our young men and women. The possibility of duplication in society what we see on screen holds great promise for our youth if they only had positive fatherhood images.”

But the success of the inaugural festival in Harlem is just a small part of the nationwide plan to bring the festival across 50 states, something both McCullough Jr. and Daryl Neverson, a producer with Harlem Professionals Inc. and a fellow co-founder, hope to accomplish.

By hosting media literacy workshops, film training sessions and fatherhood-centered debate panels at the FIFF, they said they also hope to bring an influx of new, young filmmakers into the fold to help carry on their message.

“The impact that we have had with this particular project cannot be measured. The impact of media is evident with people mimicking what they see. If we see immoral, unreliable, criminal and brainless fathers, that is what is duplicated in society,” Neverson said.

The market for more fatherhood-based initiatives like the FIFF is “wide open,” according to McCullough Jr.

“For most of our criminal population, the first missing piece was a father’s influence and guidance,” he said. “Our hope is to start a new wave of replication through the positive images we reflect – because film festivals about this topic are virtually non-existent.”


All photos credit Chris Dell / Youth Today. 

Captions, from the top: Festival workers hand out schedules and greet attendees at RAW Space in Harlem, one of six host venues in Manhattan and the Bronx for the Fatherhood Image Film Festival; The inaugural Fatherhood Image Film Festival kicked off with a "What is Fatherhood?" panel, followed by a screening of "Life, Love, Soul" at the Maysles Institute and Cinema in Harlem.