I went to a screening of the documentary film, The Other F Word with my 15 year-old daughter, Izzy. The Other F Word is Fatherhood. The film features interviews with punk rock dads such as Jim Lindberg (Pennywise/Black Pacific), Tim McIlrath (Rise Against), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Mark Hoppus (Blink 182). Filmmakers Andrea Blaugard Nevins and Cristan Reilly talk with 22 punk rock dads, putting together a smart, funny and unexpectedly touching look at how fatherhood has changed these punk rockers.
There's a paradox that's instantly obvious when you put together tattooed, pierced, guitar-wielding punk rockers with curly haired toddlers. Yes, you can see Fat Mike from NOFX pushing his kid on the swings at the park. He comments that there's no quicker way to clear out the park than for a punk rock dad to show up. There's Jim Lindberg packing up for a tour and telling his daughters he can only take one Barbie with him. These are great moments handled with fitting humor, but the film goes deeper. I kept looking over at my daughter as we watched the film. Blink 182 is one of her favorite bands, and I wanted to see her reaction to seeing some of her music heroes talk about being dads.
Izzy loved the film and you can read her thoughts on the movie here. For days after the screening, I came home to Pennywise blaring from her speakers. She liked getting the backstory on where punk came from, but she did say that she'll never be 40. Producer of The Other F Word, Cristan Reilly commented, "Spoken like a true 15 year old. That's why I love Brett [Gurewitz's] line, 'When you're young, you'll never get old and then you get old and you don't want to die.'"
I spoke with Andrea and Cristan about the surprises they found in making this film. The Other F Word tells the story of why Southern California punk rock took hold. The filmmakers examine cultural and personal influences on the musicians. Andrea had this to say about the journey they took in making this film:
We went in with that kernel of an idea that there was some funny situational humor to be had. It was after we started meeting all the other punk rock dads in addition to Jimmy that we began to find this common thread. And we had no idea that these dads had all come from these feelings of abandonment and loss and had found a community together that was punk rock, so it was a surprise to us.
Andrea and Cristan tend to finish each other's sentences and thoughts so Cristan took up this thread:
So that's why for us the history was really important because we wanted to understand that, especially as we uncovered more. As we discovered it, we kind of felt like let's share it with everyone. We realized that there hadn't been the story told about Southern California punk specifically, South Bay punk. Realizing yes, it was the most violent. Yes, these guys were drawn to that violence. Some of these guys got out of it because of the violence.
Watching the film, you feel that journey the filmmakers experienced and the narrative of the film takes on tenderness in places without losing the edginess and the raw energy that fuels punk music. What drew the filmmakers, both mothers, to this material? It was Cristan who approached Andrea with the book "Punk Rock Dad" by Jim Lindberg. Once Andrea was on board, the project sailed forward, and every musician they talked to had someone else "more punk" that they had to include. In the end, they were invited into a very protective subculture. I asked Andrea and Cristan if they thought this film would have been the same with a male director and producer. Cristan was really straightforward in her answer. It's clear this is something she's given a lot of thought to.
I know for a fact they wouldn't have asked the same questions as Andrea asked. For a lot of these guys, she asked questions that they've never really been asked before. You know, they're used to talking about their music. Not a lot of them have been asked about their parenting. That was really lovely, how open they were with us.
And being parents helped them both in telling this story. Andrea experienced what so many women have run into when starting a family:
I was thinking a lot about that yesterday because some reviewer looked at my IMDB and said, "What has she been doing for the past 10 years? Nothing." in a very negative tone. I'll tell you what I've been doing for the past 10 years, I've been having children and preparing myself to be able to tell this story. There's no way that I could have told the story the way that we did had I not spent the 10 years and made some choices in my life about being there for my kids... I wouldn't have been able to tell that 10 years ago.
There's an amazing scene with Art Alexakis from Everclear doing an acoustic version of his song, "Father of Mine." Prior to this scene, Art has just shared about his father abandoning the family and some horrific things he lived through. When they film him playing "Father of Mine," he doesn't get lost in the music. He's looking right at the camera, totally aware of being filmed, which means that the viewer is also brought into the room.He's looking right at us and it's almost uncomfortable because it's so naked. This was a beautiful, unexpected moment. I didn't anticipate that this is what I was going to feel seeing this movie.
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