Renaissance brother!

Director Rel Dowdell talks about his documentary ‘Where’s Daddy?’

2/23/2018, 6 a.m.
Rel Dowdell discusses his third full-length feature, a documentary examining the child support system, entitled “Where's Daddy?
Rel Dowdell COURTESY OF Rel Dowdell

You have to go into dealing with each subject in a non-accusatory fashion. Don’t make each subject feel like it’s an interrogation. One of my subjects was a father who had eight children with seven different women. One may feel that father should be demonized. However, it was important to let that particular father tell why he made the decisions he made over and over, and see if he learned anything from them. His answers, I think, will surprise the audience. I also asked an African American mother why she filed for child support. Her answer, I think, will also surprise, as well as enlighten.

Who is your intended audience?

Everyone. We all came from parents. Some of us have great and loving relationships with our parents, and some, unfortunately, do not. Some people never knew who their father was, and that’s tragic. Our parents, or lack thereof, have a profound effect on our lives and the person we end up becoming. The child support system has a lot of problems that people do not want to discuss. It’s taboo to millions of people. That’s what makes this film so important. It’s not dealing with an “also ran” topic. It’s not dealing with a topic that’s only relevant for a short period of time. It’s dealing with one that’s lasting and paramount to all communities, for it affects all communities. However, it affects African American fathers, and subsequently, their families, often in vastly more negative fashions. One father says he was about to take his children fishing one morning, and the sheriff came and shackled him in handcuffs and foot shackles like a slave. Imagine how that indelible image will affect his children long-term.

What message do you want people to take away from “Where’s Daddy?

That the child support system does not truly assist who it’s supposed to: the children. It often creates irreparable resentment and hatred between fathers and mothers. Men have died from it. Men have become emasculated from it. Men feel like they have no self-worth from it. Children become broken mentally and emotionally from it. Often, mothers even hate their sons from it because of the estranged relationship with the father. This begins another cycle of dysfunction and emasculation. It is important to remember that the first things learned are hardest to forget. Traditions pass from one generation to the next. The system needs to be changed. I hope people embrace the message. There’s something in it for everyone.