Coming to theatres today, Friday, September 16: A FAMILY AFFAIR
Tom Fassaert’s investigation into family estrangement made its debut at IDFA last year, where it won a special jury award. Screenings have followed at Thessaloniki Doc, It’s All True, Documentary Edge, DOK.fest Munich, Taiwan Doc, Ambulante, Encounters, Sheffield, Biografilm, Docs Against Gravity, AFI Docs, Moscow, and the upcoming Zurich and Doclisboa fests, among others.
When Fassaert’s father Rob was three, his mother Marianne abruptly left Rob and his older brother Rene at an orphanage. Two years later, and just as inexplicably, she returned to reclaim them, never explaining what happened. To say that their relationship became strained would be an understatement. Marianne eventually emigrated to South Africa, leaving her children behind. Rene never recovered, while Rob considered himself an orphan. After Rob started his own family, Marianne reconnected, coaxing Rob and his own family to relocate to South Africa with the promise of a job, only to renege once they arrived. While his father has since cut off contact, the now-95-year-old Marianne reaches out to invite the filmmaker to visit her, setting this fascinating, oblique family history into motion. Enraptured by being filmed, she indulges in selective, revisionist history which casts her as the victim. When pressed, she refuses to addresses difficult topics – until she reveals, in a truly disturbing sequence, that she is in love with her grandson and is convinced he reciprocates. Even as she takes a final return trip to the Netherlands to see her family for the last time, she never proves less than an intriguing enigma – underlined by the unexplained title of the memoir she’s engaged a ghostwriter to work on: MY DOUBLE LIFE.