Tuesday night I attended a screening of the documentary film The Kids Grow Up over at HBO. I don’t go to many events (time and childcare constraints) but this was just around the corner from the office. Plus bloggy friends Catherine Connors (Her Bad Mother) and Doug French (Laid Off Dad) were doing a post screening panel on parenting, so I knew I’d be able to catch up with at least a couple folks, maybe more if the NY parenting bloggers turned out.
Which they didn’t but that was okay, as I had some neat non-bloggy conversations with people involved in the film (including filmmaker Doug Block) during the cocktail reception before the screening and got a chance to really catch up with Doug and Catherine –or at least as much as you can in a 15 minute conversation.
So, the film. In it, filmmaker Doug Block chronicles his only child Lucy’s path to adulthood, using archival footage shot from her earliest years – probably well before he fully formulated the idea of the documentary – and tons of much more intrusive footage shot of her, his wife and other members of the family once he decided to chronicle the rite of passage of going off to college.
While the movie is nominally about Lucy, it’s really about the journey of four generations of his family, as Block works in archival footage from his own childhood, and a glimpse into his baby step-grandson’s beginning journey.
As I thought about it on the train ride home, I realized that in a way Block’s documentary is the film-length version of a parenting blog. Much as he does with his family story, bloggers chronicle their lives through the lens of parenthood, but their stories are as much (if not more) their stories as they are their children’s. Likewise, The Kids Grow Up is just as much about him letting go as it is about his daughter growing up.
Now, to believe that others will find your story compelling and worthy of their attention requires a strong ego and belief in one’s purpose. But for readers and viewers to actually care requires talent. I often think that’s what folks misunderstand when they look at the popularity of parenting blogs. Yes, it’s in part the story, and our ability to identify with it, but what distinguishes an excellent parenting blog from a mediocre one is the storytelling. Good storytellers attract an audience, no matter what the medium.
And there is some damn fine storytelling in this film. While at times I felt the film was a little long, I suspect that was largely because I was eagle eye on the clock so I wouldn’t miss my train home. In fact, I was unable to stay for the post screening panel because everything ran just a bit later.
The Kids Grow Up will air multiple times over Father’s Day weekend on HBO and the DVD comes out on June 19th.