We will be screening his documentary The Kids Grow Up  followed by
a brief Q&A afterwards with the filmmaker.
Ticket Information: $9.50 general admission at the door
courtesy of the press kit:
In his internationally acclaimed documentary 51 Birch Street, Doug Block examined his parents’ seemingly ordinary 54-year marriage and uncovered a universal story about the mystery of family. The Kids Grow Up sees Block turns his lens on his family once more, this time from his own vantage point as a father, to tell a larger story about modern-day parenthood and marriage.
Lucy Block is Doug’s only child and, like many involved camcorder-era dads, he videotaped frequently with her as she grew up, capturing their close bantering relationship on camera in the process. An established documentary filmmaker, Block long mulled incorporating the footage into a longitudinal look at the parenting experience. It’s only when Lucy turns 17, however, and is a year away from leaving home for college, that his focus turns to the emotionally fraught period when children separate from their parents and parents must separate from their children. The Kids Grow Up is Block’s intimate and moving account of his year of learning to let go.
It turns out to be a turbulent time of transition for the entire family. Doug’s stepson Josh (14 years Lucy’s elder) has a child, making Doug and his wife Marjorie first-time grandparents. Marjorie endures a severe episode of clinical depression, her first in 13 years, then fully recovers. Lucy has her first serious romantic relationship, only to grapple with whether or not to break it off before leaving for college. And Doug’s fixation on Lucy’s departure masks a deeper anxiety about aging and the looming empty nest.
Moving seamlessly between past, present and the fast-approaching future, we see Lucy blossom from precocious kid to serious and self-possessed young woman over the course of the film. Along the way, the eternal father-daughter struggle for control plays out through the camera with warmth and humor (and occasional irritation). Marjorie candidly informs Doug that his “buddy-buddy” relationship with Lucy signifies a larger unwillingness to grow up. Meanwhile, Doug’s ongoing effort to come to peace with his aging, rigidly authoritarian father, contrasted with Josh’s eagerness to be a stay-at-home dad, illustrates just how far notions of fatherhood have shifted over the generations.
Told from Block’s engaging first-person perspective, The Kids Grow Up breathes fresh insight into the wonderful and daunting relationship between parent and child, as well as the highs and lows of long-term marriage. As Doug struggles, often less than gracefully, with letting go of his daughter, it becomes apparent that The Kids Grow Up is not just Lucy’s coming of age story but very much her father’s as well.
courtesy of the press kit:
Many years ago, when I set out to become a proverbial “big-time” movie director, the last thing I expected was that my greatest filmmaking success until now would result from an intensely personal documentary about my relatively ordinary family.
51 Birch Street (released in 2006) was a film I never intended to make. I mean, who in their right mind would actually plan to make a documentary about their parents’ marriage? Certainly not me, at least until a series of shocking discoveries in the wake of my mother’s unexpected death caused me to reevaluate every assumption I had about marriage and family. In the process, I realized I had accidentally tapped into a story that would resonate with audiences throughout the world.
In stark contrast, The Kids Grow Up was a film that percolated in the back recesses of my brain for a long time. My daughter Lucy has always had a natural camera presence, and I couldn’t help but think there was a funny and fascinating documentary to be made about parenting over the long haul from a father’s perspective. The only problem was that I could never quite get a handle on what form such a film might take. It never seemed enough to simply see a little girl grow up on camera.
As the years (and other film projects) flew by, and a total of about 50 hours of footage accumulated, it remained a subject in search of a story. Which was fine by me. I was perfectly happy to have captured bits and pieces of my only child’s life, and a loose chronicle of our close and loving relationship, if only for posterity.
Then Lucy turned 17, and one morning it hit me that there was only one year left before she would leave the nest for college. In that moment, anticipating and dreading the emotion-packed moment of goodbye that parenthood inevitably leads to, I suddenly envisioned The Kids Grow Up almost fully formed. It would no longer be just a light and humorous look at a father-daughter relationship playing out through my camera over time. Lurking underneath was a more bittersweet story about a baby boomer parent struggling with aging and loss and learning how to let go. Eventually, the context broadened to include three generations of fathers, illustrating how exponentially more involved dads have become in their children’s lives. (With the film premiering on HBO on Father’s Day, I’m particularly happy to have the spotlight focused on that larger cultural context.)
It’s extremely challenging to make personal documentaries, and The Kids Grow Up was, if anything, even more daunting than 51 Birch Street. As the film makes clear, Lucy had a healthy amount of ambivalence about being filmed at certain moments, and I tried to be as sensitive to her feelings as possible. My rule of thumb was to begin shooting only when she was okay with it and to turn the camera off whenever she told me to. Still, Lucy is emotionally vulnerable in several scenes and, when it comes to your child, your parental instinct is to protect. Lucy was the first to see different cuts of the film and was given multiple opportunities to pull the plug on it if she felt it would adversely impact her life (fortunately, she didn’t). The only way I could make The Kids Grow Up was to be a father first and filmmaker second, although, as the film shows, I certainly tried my best to be both at the same time.
My wife Marjorie is very exposed in the film, as well, and not just because the looming empty nest cast a degree of anxiety over our marriage. She is shown, and on one occasion briefly interviewed, in the midst of a serious depressive episode that at times left her unable to get out of bed. Even knowing she would want me to, I wrestled internally for two months before I was able to point a camera in her direction in that condition.
Marjorie has always been open about her history of depression, and especially appreciates that the film will help de-stigmatize mental illness by depicting someone who suffers a depressive episode and then recovers fully without making a big fuss about it.
And so I’ve made another very personal film about my family, one that I hope will stand alone from 51 Birch Street and, at the same time, work as a companion piece. Having produced a number of personal documentaries, as well as having made three of my own (and in the middle of making yet another), I fully understand the pitfalls involved. However, the more I’ve travelled with these films around the world, the more I’ve come to realize that there’s nothing more powerful or affecting than authentically sharing who we are as human beings with one another. I’m proud and grateful that my wife and daughter feel the same way, and that they trusted I would present their lives and experiences on film in an authentic and, hopefully, entertaining way.
Finally, one regrettable aspect of making first-person docs is that people often come away from them with the misconception that I create them by myself. Happily, I had a number of extraordinarily talented collaborators who made the film infinitely better and the process so much more enjoyable. To composer H. Scott Salinas, associate producer Gabriel Sedgwick, editor Maeve O’Boyle and, particularly, my producing partner Lori Cheatle, I give my heartfelt thanks and everlasting appreciation.
courtesy of the film’s website:
DOUG BLOCK (Director, producer, camera) is a New York-based filmmaker whose work includes some of the most acclaimed feature documentaries of the past two decades.
Doug’s previous film, 51 Birch Street, was named one of the 10 Best Films of the Year by the New York Times, The Chicago Sun-Times and the Ebert & Roeper Show, and it was selected as one of the outstanding documentaries of the year by the National Board of Review, the Boston Society of Film Critics and Rolling Stone Magazine. The film garnered numerous awards, including Best Overall Program at the 2008 Banff Television Awards. 51 Birch Street screened at dozens of international film festivals, followed by a 9-month U.S. theatrical release. It aired on HBO, ZDF/Arte, Channel Four and many other stations worldwide.
Doug’s first film, The Heck With Hollywood! screened at over two dozen international film festivals before being released theatrically in the U.S. by Original Cinema. The film was broadcast on PBS and Bravo in the U.S., and throughout the world. His second feature was the Emmy-nominated film Home Page, a look at the early days of online culture. Called “Groundbreaking” by Roger Ebert, the film screened at the Sundance and Rotterdam Festivals and was broadcast on HBO, IFC and in Europe after a theatrical release.
His credits as producer include: Silverlake Life (Sundance Grand Jury Prize, Peabody, Prix Italia), Jupiter’s Wife (Sundance Special Jury Award, Emmy), Paternal Instinct (Best Feature Film – NY Gay & Lesbian Film Festival), A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (top doc prizes at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals) and The Edge of Dreaming, which aired on POV earlier this year. He is currently executive producer of the 2011 Sundance award-winner Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles.
Doug is also the founder and co-host of The D-Word, a popular international online discussion forum for documentary professionals.
LinksHere is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:
6/17/16 – “Remarkable … a chronicle of ordinary life that is partly a scrapbook, partly a memoir and, most movingly, an essay on the passage of time and the mysterious connection between parents and children.” A. O. Scott, The New York Times – link
7/10/16 – “Nakedly personal … profoundly universal.” Eric Hynes, Village Voice – link
7/11/16 – “Block intercuts the elliptical flashbacks with contemporary footage of Lucy’s life, roaming candidly through her final moments at home with an anxious, bittersweet tenderness. His features are infused with a powerful, at times emotionally profound nostalgia intrinsic to these cinematic time capsules.” Daniel Loria on The Kids Grow Up, IndieWire – link
7/13/16 – “Intimate, funny, deeply affecting; The Kids Grow Up exemplifies personal filmmaking at its most truthful and absorbing. It’s wonderful.” Ann Hornaday, Washington Post – link
7/18/16 – “Powerful … funny … irresistible.” Andrew O’Hehir on The Kids Grow Up for Salon – link
8/15/16 – Rule #1: Don’t make it all about you (even though, of course, it’s all about you)… – link
Local Media Coverage:
7/19/16 – Jordan M. Smith interviews Doug Block in the July 20th, 2016 issue of The Public – link
7/19/16 – Christopher Schobert interviews Doug Block online at Buffalo.com – link