Me and Me Dad: Telluride Review

A director’s daughter probes her family’s turbulent history in this elegant doc.

Director Katrine Boorman, daughter of Oscar nominee John Boorman, delves into her family's history in this cinematic memoir.

TELLURIDE — Director Katrine Boorman melds two popular documentary genres in her appealing cinematic memoir, Me and Me Dad. The film is at once a very personal family story and a biography of a notable Hollywood personage. That would be John Boorman, the Oscar-nominated director of such excellent films as Point Blank, Deliverance and Hope and Glory. His daughter’s film provides a telling portrait of the gifted British director as well as a moving chronicle of the pressures of growing up inside a high-profile movie clan.

Katrine admitted in Telluride that she made the film mainly as a way of growing closer to her sometimes distant father, who remarried after divorcing her mother and started a whole new family with his second wife (from whom he is now also separated). From the opening seconds of the film, we can sense the tensions in the father-daughter relationship. As Katrine sets up a shot with her father, John curtly tells her how she should be framing and shooting the interview. Movie directors have been aptly compared to military commanders; few of them are known for their self-effacing shyness. John Boorman admits at one point that some of his films might have been improved if he had paid more heed to his collaborators, but he always wanted to retain control. That kind of overbearing personality is not always easy for others to tolerate, which may explain why many movie directors have fractured families.

Boorman’s wife Christel was a German woman whom he met while he was in the army, and although they had four children together, John says that it sometimes felt as if their stormy marriage was a continuation of the Second World War. Christel is featured prominently in the film, and she speaks of her efforts to preserve marriage and family despite frequent rows. John often brought the family along on long shoots, and both Katrine (who had a prominent role in Excalibur) and son Charley (who starred in The Emerald Forest) worked on their father’s movies.

Charley and sister Daisy are also interviewed in the film. Their sister Telsche died of cancer in 1996. The film honors Katrine’s sister as well as her father, and one of the indelible scenes in the film shows John and Katrine visiting Telsche’s grave in Paris. Another memorable interlude surveys a reunion of all the surviving family members, including ex-wife Christel, when the sparks fly.

Katrine includes details on many of her father’s famous films, including footage shot on the set of Deliverance. But this can hardly be considered a penetrating critical analysis of the director’s oeuvre. More revealing are insights into her father’s personal history, including his pained recognition that his mother was carrying on a long-term affair after her marriage. This anecdote goes a long way toward explaining John’s suspicion of all intimate relationships.  Nevertheless, when Katrine tells her father near the end of the film that she made this documentary mainly as a way of bringing him back into her life, they reach a rapprochement that is deeply poignant. All of the interviews in the film are remarkably candid, and you come away admiring both father and daughter not simply for their talents but for their efforts to heal the wounds that singe most families, whether or not they work in the film business.

Venue: Telluride Film Festival
Director: Katrine Boorman
Producers: Mel Agace, Katrine Boorman, Danny Moynihan
Executive producers: Rose Garnett, Craig McCall, Christopher Simon, Felix Vossan
Director of photography: Sophie Pierozzi
Music: Neil MacColl, Kate St. John
Editors: Ash Jenkins, Mel Agace
No rating, 66 minutes