Every kid has that moment when Dad puts on his favorite music, and all you can think to say is, “Lame!” But what if your father wasn’t just playing the CD, but was playing on the album? And what if he was rocking really, really hard, and shouting down the powers that be? Suddenly, Dad isn’t so lame.
This is the framework for The Other F Word, a new documentary about Punk Rock Dads, which runs at Film Forum in Manhattan November 2–15. While out on the road showing The Other F Word around the country, the film’s director Andrea Balugrund answered a few questions for Barista Kids about Dads who totally rock out.
What do you think is most important about a father’s role in his kids’ lives?
I think it’s huge. Here’s a story I tell about my own family, and this happened before I started this film. My daughter was 4 and had just started her third year of pre-school. She’d always been the kind of kid who was gung-ho for ANYTHING. Cheerful, self-motivated, articulate. Suddenly, she started crying a lot at school and seeming very out of sorts. Since nothing had changed in her normal routine—no deaths, divorce, moves, new babies—we decided to seek council of the über-wise parenting expert, Wendy Mogel, who happened to live in our neighborhood. She asked us all the questions about our household goings on, gave us a few “Uh-huh’s” and nerve-wracking “I-see’s,” and then turned to my husband (who has a high-powered career), and said, “I want you to make it your priority to be home for three dinners a week with your daughter.” My husband looked stunned. I could read his eyes: Impossible. “And I want you to do one thing over the next few weekends that is just about her. Something she wants to do.” That seemed more doable. That was her prescription: three dinners with the family and one outing, and come back and see me in three weeks.
It was astonishing. The crying stopped. The old joyous, life-grabbing, self-confident kid came back. The reason, Dr. Mogel said, was that our daughter felt respected. The one person in the house who didn’t cater to her every need, but instead drifted in and out and yet garnered much admiration and adoration in our household theater, if you will, now respected her. It was magic.
Kids need their dads. Talk to any one of the guys in The Other F Word, and you will see it was the reason they felt so bereft as children, frequently the reason they rebelled so extremely, and the reason they made the decision to be wholly there for their children. I could see, in the firm embrace of their role as fathers, their opportunity to redeem the sins of their own fathers.
What things do Punk Rock Dads do better and/or worse than “regular” parents?
Let’s start with worse. Alas, in order to make money as musicians, many of them have to be on the road a lot. And yes, the kids of punks might be exposed to, in Fat Mike’s case, two dominatrixes tattooed on his arm, one tied up with a ball gag. But you know what? Kids get exposed to a whole lot more out there in the world these days, and at least Mike is there to explain it to her…when she’s ready.
Best? Well, of course, kids should have boundaries. It’s not like these dads are without boundaries. There is a whole section of our film when the audience gets to watch them shepherding their kids, making sure they know when they’re getting too close to the fence. However, there is no better group of parents I can think of to teach those kids how to question authority—how to not just take what is handed to them and say, “Fine,” but to really ask, “Why?”
How do kids of punk (or former punk) dads rebel?
Our protagonist, Jim Lindberg, former lead singer of the skate-punk band Pennywise, and now lead of The Black Pacific, said his kids went through a bit of “Bieber Fever.” Now if that isn’t a Punk Rock Dad’s nightmare…
What was the biggest surprise you encountered while making the movie?
Tenderness. It’s not a word you would think of when conjuring up punk or punk rockers. These guys had always seemed deliberately spiky, like porcupines. What was shocking and so rewarding to me as a filmmaker was discovering that, just like any hard-shelled creature, they were protecting something very vulnerable inside. As soon as I asked them about their childhoods and about their own children, those spikes just disappeared, and what they revealed was pure poetry.
What is the most memorable thing a dad has said to you after a screening of the film?
At the end of our premiere screening at South by Southwest, six of our punk dads had joined us up on the stage, and Tony Adolescent of The Adolescents said, “Andrea, Thank you for showing our humanity.” And the one thing I’ve heard from almost every “regular” dad I’ve gotten to speak to after a screening is: “I can’t wait to get home and hug my kids.”