As someone who is not a parent, never wanted to be a parent, and still says a silent prayer of “thank heaven that’s not me” every time I walk by a mom or dad struggling with a stroller, Rachel Dretzin’s Far From the Tree — based on Andrew Solomon’s NY Times bestseller Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity — at first glance seemed far from making my must-watch-docs list. Which is precisely how I know it’s as good as it is. When I finally got around to catching it on screener recently, Dretzin’s film — which premiered at last year’s DOC NYC and was the opening night picture at this year’s Montclair Film Festival — not only had me riveted for its entire 90-some-minute running time but for days afterward. Forget parents and children for the moment. Far From the Tree is nothing less than a startling, powerful portrait of what it means to be human – in all our endlessly diverse ways.
The doc itself focuses on several families in which a child is “far from the tree” – be it due to Down syndrome, autism, dwarfism, or having committed an inexplicable crime. Contrary to preconceived notions, not only are these parents and their offspring thriving, not just surviving, but as Solomon himself (also a character in the film, as his book was inspired by his own personal experience of being an only gay child) puts it, in his decade of reporting he’d not once met a parent who said, “I’d like to turn my child in for a better model.” Indeed, as the film expertly shows, a challenging child is often full of more life-affirming revelations than any so-called “normal” one.
Filmmaker was fortunate enough to chat with the Emmy Award-winning documentarian prior to the film’s theatrical release today at IFC Center.
To read my interview visit Filmmaker magazine.