This past week, the LDS Film Festival featured Barrett Burgin’s new short film Father of Man. It is a powerful story of family, the relationships between fathers and sons, and a unique style of filmmaking that beautifully illustrates the aesthetics of Latter-day Saints and beliefs we share as human beings.
The film centers around the tumultuous and difficult relationship between Boyd and his son, Emmett. Emmett seeks the approval of his father, and Boyd sees only what his son is lacking. When Boyd suffers from a fatal heart attack, he finds himself in the afterlife and learns that Emmett will lose faith in having a family as a consequence of their rocky relationship. Now a spirit, Boyd must do his best to repair it from the other side. The situation is one that many viewers might relate to or empathize with as they witness Emmett’s struggle to seek his father’s approval, and Boyd’s difficulty finding a way to express his love.
There are a variety of aspects that separate Father of Man from other films that deal with spiritual elements, all of which show director Barrett Burgin’s talent and understanding of the ability cinema has to teach thought-provoking lessons. In conjunction with a fantastic crew, stunning cinematography, and an inspiring score, viewers of all types will find a story with heart, emotion, and an abiding belief in life after death.
One aspect that viewers will find interesting is the films’ ability to illustrate the unique perspective of Latter-day Saints. Many forms of media shy away from religious aspects that could come across as “preachy” or too “churchy”, especially with the risk of being lumped into the category of “Church films.” Father of Man finds a wonderful balance as it very clearly contains ideological elements of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but its illustration of the afterlife, kindness in parenthood, and the eternal nature of families is one that can be appreciated by viewers of any faith.
The film production witnessed its share of setbacks and miracles, some of which Barrett was kind enough to share:
“On our second shooting day, we were filming one of our most emotionally vulnerable and important scenes at an apartment complex in Provo. This quiet scene takes place during Thanksgiving, and Emmett performs a song he wrote for his dad, Boyd, about their relationship. We had long before scheduled the apartment’s clubhouse as a basecamp for our crew and equipment, but I guess the daughter of the owner wanted to have a birthday party there and was told she could use the space. When an especially aggressive group of Provo partiers showed up, our crew members tried to handle it in a constructive way. They apologized for the mixup, made some calls, and secured several nearby options for their party, but to no avail. The party was upset and decided to try and sabotage our film.
The angry partiers tried walking through our basecamp. They harassed some crew members, and eventually decided to position themselves as close to our set as possible and purposely blast their music at us out of spite. However, those of us filming inside our apartment location were undisturbed. Incredibly, we heard nothing. Emmett’s beautiful song turned out crisp and clear. When we finally came out of the apartment, we learned about the fiasco that had been happening just outside, and that some neighbors had called the cops on the angry party for being too loud.”
In today’s world, it can be difficult to find stories that are simple in nature but powerful in meaning. Father of Man is an exception, and is a visually captivating film that invites the spirit of family and love into the lives of its viewers. The film placed 2nd for Best Dramatic Short Film at the LDS Film Festival, and will be released online this summer. As Burgin’s senior film at Brigham Young University, Father of Man shows a great deal of promise for the future of inspiring cinema.