When you start with a humanizing premise, there’s nowhere to go but up. Documentaries that present solutions, not just observations, should be lauded and rewarded. That’s why praise has been bestowed on this heartwarming ﬁlm and its mission to reunite daughters and their incarcerated dads. Bring a tissue when you see it. Maybe a whole box.
“My dad can’t come to the father/daughter dance because he’s in jail,” said one disappointed young girl at the Girls for Change Leadership Academy in Virginia. But she had a suggestion, “What if we had the dance in the jail.” And so, it began. A sheriff was asked to let a daughter/dad dance take place in his prison. He approved, it happened and that auspicious event in 2013 blossomed into the “Date with Dad” prison rehabilitation program.
First-time doc director Angela Patton, CEO of Girls for Change, teamed with video music director Natalie Rae (“Leon Bridges: Bad Bad News”) and they documented the journey of four young girls looking forward to attending a prom in a Washington D.C. prison. Aubrey, Santana, Raziah, and Ja’Ana are anxious as they prepare for the event. Their dads, Keith, Mark, Alonzo and Frank, are twice as nervous.
During sensitive moments, sweet cello music (composer Kelsey Lu) plays. During reflective scenes, songs like “Happen,” by British singer/songwriter Sampha, ﬁll the air with their deeply felt lyrics. In a haunting tenor voice, he croons: “You’re too scared to show me love. ‘Cause you’re too fresh with the scars… I can’t let this happen again. I found my love and I don’t wanna lose it again.”
Audiences will love all the girls, especially the extremely bright Aubrey who was around ﬁve years old during the ﬁlming. All the dads become leading men in their own movies and their metamorphoses are on view. That big day, when the daughters and fathers meet, hug, dance and exchange feelings is when viewers who’d previously dabbed their eyes with a few tissues will grab a bunch.
Daughters puts a face on those affected by incarceration. Children, parents and families all trying to ﬁnd their way back to the center of life. People learning lessons and gaining wisdom. When one father says, “The streets don’t love us. Our kids love us,” you know that they’re all headed in the right direction.