Thu 06 Jun, 2024

Directors of new prison documentary ‘Daughters’ visit National Prison Radio

Community activist Angela Patton and co-director Natalie Rae recently visited HMP Brixton to be interviewed by former prisoner and National Prison Radio presenter, Hilary Ineomo-Marcus for their new feature documentary, that follows a group of inmates in a US prison and their daughters who prepare for a special Daddy Daughter Dance as part of a unique fatherhood programme.

Daughters recently made its world premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival and took home two awards: Festival Favorite and Audience Choice: U.S. Documentary Competition.

Eight years in the making, the documentary follows four young girls and their imprisoned fathers preparing for a daddy-daughter dance. The dance marked the conclusion of their 12-week Date with Dad fatherhood programme in a Washington D.C. jail which Angela developed.

Angela Patton has dedicated her life to empowering black girls. She is the CEO of the organisation ‘Girls For A Change‘; their mission is ‘Prepare Black girls for the world and the world for Black girls‘.

Date with Dad was created by young girls who were part of the social change programme in Girls For A Change.

Angela told Hilary: “this programme give girls an opportunity to think about issues in their community, what they can do to tackle them and create their own solutions on their own terms.

And this particular group of girls really wanted to change the narrative of black fathers and how they showed up, why they didn’t, and also figure out creative ways to close the gap.

And so they did come up with something that we all are really familiar with, which are father-daughter dances.

The father-daughter bond is at the forefront of the documentary. It highlights the importance of family relationships as an integral part of rehabilitation and accountability of behaviour.

The girls taking part in the dance express multiple emotions; excitement, hesitancy, uncertainty, especially as some girls had been apart from their fathers for so long, that they had no memories of them. For most, this dance would have been the only chance to have physical contact with their fathers for years.

Natalie told Hilary: “The families that had been disconnected for quite a long time were really nervous. Am I gonna recognise? Is this going to feel the same? And a lot of the fathers were expressing that their girls might be kind of too nervous and is that moment going to be too awkward?

However, once the dance had started, “everything was about love and connection and everything was right back to feeling that right away and that was so powerful“.

Hilary asked Angela and Natalie: “What is the room like after the girls leave? What is the emotion that the men feel watching their daughters leave and not knowing when next they’ll be able to hold them and hug them?

Regret” Angela replies, but she says that in every dance she’s witnessed, there is always one father who steps into the circle and encourages them to keep moving forward for the better.

However, Date with Dad is not just about a dance. The men involved go through weeks of counselling before and after the event where they share some very vulnerable information about themselves and their past for the very first time, despite knowing the sort of environment that they’re in and whilst sitting next to another man who’s eventually going to see them on a wing again.

Angela says over those weeks, the men build a ‘brotherhood’ together, and become very supportive of one another.

The documentary also touches on relationships after release from prison and how it is not always easy to rebuild those relationships that have been affected by their fathers being inside. Issues such as struggling to trust their dad again to not go back to prison, and anger at how this has affected them are common feelings the girls experience.

Hilary told Angela and Natalie that the documentary was one of the most impactful documentaries he had seen and “the amazing characters that told their stories and [who] were willing to be so vulnerable in front of a camera was really, really touching and it made me reflect as a father myself on my relationship with my daughters“.

Daughters is out in select UK cinemas on 9th August and on Netflix on 14th August.

The interview will be broadcast on NPR Talk later on this year.

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