AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

10/15/07

In Search Of Our Fathers: Women Raising Men, A Celebration Of Courage


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By Prairie Miller

A decade and a half ago, before award winning filmmaker Marco Williams had established a remarkable reputation as a documentary filmmaker exploring and exposing the long suppressed critical and shameful events touching on race history in America - films like Two Towns Of Jasper and Banished - he directed a small but resonant personal film, In Search Of Our Fathers. Though the documentary about the quest for his own father that he never knew appeared only briefly in theaters and on the PBS series Frontline, In Search Of Our Fathers is not easily forgotten, and the kind of uncompromising introspective cinematic contemplation that inevitably sheds light on far broader cultural issues in American life.

Williams, who grew up as an only child in a large extended Philadelphia matriarchy comprised of four fatherless generations, introduces an environment of warm and caring women who have surrounded him, and where he never seemed to lack for nurturing or love. But he was nevertheless haunted growing up by that enormous absence as presence - the man who fathered him and who was referred to in passing with embarrassment, or not at all.

Later as a film student at Harvard, Williams decided to go on the difficult physical and emotional journey to locate his father and also film the path to that traumatic discovery, with camera in tow. His quest would be a lonely and painful one, with a mother not the least receptive to talking about him or offering clues. And a father, with whom he finally connects at age 24, hardly willing to bond or even acknowledge paternity.

Along the way, Williams reflects on many related greater social considerations, especially significant today not only in the African American community, but in the larger society as well where post-feminist era women in general are more likely to opt for a single parent family, even in the absence of virtually any community support network for fractured families, rather than suffer spousal abuse and oppression at home. So the predominat question for Williams is, can strong women raise confident and emotionally stable male children without a man around?

In the end, Williams, who today teaches film at NYU, discovers that he has only to look within and at his male kin right around him for the answers. In that regard, this eloquent and heartfelt transformative journey of personal discovery comes full circle. For Williams achieves acute self-awareness, not of the present and future weaknesses and difficulties of fatherless African American families, but rather the astonishing steel-willed strengths, sacrifices and courage of the extraordinary women presiding over them. So in a sense, In Search Of Our Fathers is a celebration, and a truly feminist story.

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After completing In Search Of Our Fathers, Williams never saw his father again. James Berry passed away August 29, 1992. The filmmaker has dedicated In Search Of Our Fathers 'In memory of the strong black women of my family and throughout the Diaspora.' For more information about this one hour DVD from Conjure Films - which includes an interview with the filmmaker - and additional Marco Williams productions, visit: Two-toneproductions.com.

Future film projects being developed by Marco Williams include:

*Septentrional
A history of Haiti told in Music.

*Memorial
An examination of the rise of the multimedia memorial and how it impacts collective memory and national identity.

*For Whites Only
A film about White people, made by White People, for White people

*Freedom Dreams
A film about the life and times of Patrick Critton, a black militant, criminal, revolutionary and terrorist who robbed banks, made bombs and fermented the overthrow of the United States government while running an after-school program for underprivileged youth.

Prairie Miller

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