Here’s how you’re supposed to treat addicts you love: Send them to rehab, give ultimatums, cut them off. Here’s what Che “Rhymefest” Smith does instead: He goes looking for his homeless, alcoholic father, Brian, whom he hasn’t seen in a quarter of a century. He even buys Brian’s old house and moves in.
Don’t call it heroism, exactly; call it nostalgia, a desire to undo a lonely childhood, a pattern of abandonment, and the belief that Brian might be dead. The documentary In My Father’s House doesn’t spend much time on politics, examining why rates of fatherlessness are so high among black American families, but it doesn’t need to. This intimate film’s creators presume that the audience is familiar with the facts and wants a human story about what it’s like to get your dad back.
Che, a Chicago native and radio DJ, is kind, engaging, and self-aware; he’s also a rapper who’s friends with Kanye and knows intimately about the pull away from family — in his case, to fame. Che has a daughter with an ex whose maternity he doubts, and he and his wife are trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive.
Comfortable in front of a camera, Che sometimes hides his emotions behind a performer’s façade, but his vulnerability becomes more visible as he learns to be a source of stability for his father, who is struggling to stay sober. Brian does get a job, an apartment, and a new set of teeth. He even flirts with Che’s mom, and Che’s whole family sits down to dinner together, laughing. Not all happy families are alike. Not all families are this likable.
In My Father’s House
Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg
Break Thru Films
Opens October 9, AMC Empire 25
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 6, 2015