05/14/2010 09:37 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Interview: Writer-Directors Josh and Benny Safdie of Daddy Longlegs

It was, say Josh and Benny Safdie, so typical of their father.

The Safdies had given their father a DVD of their film, Daddy Longlegs, in hope of getting his reaction to the semi-autobiographical cinematic version of their childhood. But after months of his procrastinating ("All these long, elaborate stories about why he couldn't watch it," Josh says), the Safdies had given up on his watching it.

"Then last year, we were on our way to the Cannes Film Festival, where it was having its premiere," Josh says. "The plane lands and almost the second I turn my cell phone on, it rings - and it's my dad. And he was crying."

Adds Benny, "Not just crying. It was like this guttural wail. He was happy we made it. He said he felt our love in a way he'd never seen from us. He was also very apologetic. We thought it would be cathartic for him, to show him that we understood what he was going through. Part of the way we connect with him is through memories."

Sitting in a production office on Broadway south of Canal Street in Manhattan, the Safdies (Josh is 26, Benny is 24) are both talkative and enthusiastic. They finish each other's sentences and thoughts. Their film, Daddy Longlegs, which also played at Sundance this year, opens in limited release and on VOD today.

While not explicitly about their childhood ("There are three instances in the film of things that actually happened to us," Josh says), the film is a portrait of their father - in this case, a divorced dad whose annual two-week custody of his young sons turns chaotic because he has no clue about what being a parent entails. They sat down to talk about the movie - and life with their parents.

Q: So your father cried when he saw the film. What did your mother say?
When our mother saw it, she saw it as pure vindication. She saw it as a pure hate letter. But we want to be clear - the film is not our lives. It was inspired by the way we felt, but the characters are their own people. But people project their own situation on it. In divorce, the kids are the ones who have to mine both sides for what the truth is.
Benny: When we were little, our dad would show us Kramer vs. Kramer the day before we would be going back to our mother. To him, that was what was happening. So inevitably we would be cold and mean to her. But they both played the same game.