The Tapes of My Father
Directed by Robert Parrish
“In a way that familiar feeling of disappointment makes your new house a home.” Such are the documented words of a man whose life has been nothing short of miserable. And thus is the tone for this dark, inventive gem of a short film.
Robert Parrish’s The Tapes of My Father is (on paper) a man’s sympathetic tribute to his deceased father. We learn through archival footage that his dad worked as a newscaster for a television station. Later we are introduced to traces of his father’s troubled past through archived tapes. The tapes feature historically ambiguous black and white photos and video narrated by an artificially deepened voice assumed to be his father.
After a tongue-in-cheek, laughably cheesy opening homage to his father, Parrish immediately yanks our hearts from our bodies and corners us into a futile world of bitterness and extreme depression. The compilation of his father’s tapes begins with: “Statues make me depressed…because I’ll never do anything good enough to merit my own statue.” After spending a few seconds with his father we aren’t sure whether to cringe, laugh or cry.
But as time continues to pass…and his father’s grief remains constant…there is no longer any alternative but to submit to your gut, which is inevitably rooting for a belly laugh.
And if you’re not laughing then the joke’s on you. Parrish brilliantly utilizes seemingly random archived footage to construct a story without actually having any true-to-life characters. The dramatic contrast between the intensely melodramatic approach at the beginning of the film and the morbid second half which follows effectively positions the viewer in an emotionally uncomfortable position. And yet the uncompromising nature of the filmmaking makes it easy to acknowledge those who are indeed buying into the legitimacy of this piece.
Tapes of My Father was an official selection for the DC Shorts Film Festival and Rosebud Film & Video Festival. Its success stems from its original, experimental style of storytelling and brilliant execution in manipulating the hearts and minds of its viewers.