As parents, we hold grand dreams for our children – even while they are still in utero – but these dreams can become hindrances when they do not fit the people our children actually become. The new documentary film “Far From the Tree” explores families who have children with wildly different realities – autism, Down syndrome, dwarfism, a murder conviction – than their parents’ hopes for them, but the universal premise of these stories is the enduring power of parental love.
Emmy-winning director Rachel Dretzin adapted the film from the nonfiction book of the same name, written by National Book Award-winning author Andrew Solomon and published in 2012 to critical acclaim. Like the book (subtitled “Parents, Children and the Search for Identity”), the film weaves Solomon’s childhood story with the stories of the other families. Solomon, who is gay, says conducting extensive research and interviews of families struggling with learning to live with and accept their exceptional children helped him understand and forgive his own parents’ difficulty in accepting his sexual orientation.
“My mother imagined that her first-born son would be part of the real mainstream – the kind of kid who was popular at school, athletic, at ease in the world and basically quite conventional,” says Solomon, who is a producer of the film. “And instead, she got me.”
The filmmakers hope that this poignant visual story will remind viewers that it is our differences that unite us, even in the most trying and heartbreaking of challenges. “Solomon brought their great humanity, strength and power to the forefront,” Dretzin says. “He recognized the joy in communities and lives that most of us see as unfortunate.”
Solomon says writing the book and making the film helped him understand the difference between love and acceptance. “I found that while love should exist from the cradle, acceptance is a lifelong process,” he says.
“Far From the Tree” opened in select L.A. theaters July 27 and is also available on demand. Visit ifcfilms.com for more information.