An American doctor fathers at least 94 children through artificial insemination in a captivating documentary.
What would you do if you found out that the fertility doctor who assisted your parents in conceiving you through artificial insemination is your biological father? Our Father is a crime documentary that is set in the city of Indianapolis in the United States of America. In this city, a well-known fertility doctor allegedly used his own sperm to impregnate female patients without their consent.
Dr Donald Cline assured his patients that sperm donors were selected from a pool of medical students and that the sperm sample of a donor would not be used more than three times, an effort to avoid incest and rapid population growth.
Most of the film is told through the eyes of Jacoba Ballard, a daughter of a patient who received an artificial insemination procedure from Dr Cline. Throughout her life, she questioned her identity and later decided to take a DNA test with the assistance of a genetic testing website, which also tracks possible DNA matches.
To Ballard’s surprise, she discovers through the website that she has seven half-siblings. Which was strange as the sample of a sperm donor cannot be used more than three times. As she searches for the truth behind her paternity, a horrific number of half-siblings that are related to her are revealed.
Sinister and suspenseful music is used throughout to denote an atmosphere of foreboding. The director, Lucia Jourdan, makes use of detailed close-up shots of the siblings in the film to point out the physical similarities between them.
The film also uses a variation of other camera shots such as extreme and wide shots which give viewers a bird’s eye view of the seemingly quiet and peaceful neighbourhood in Indianapolis. The tranquility of the neighbourhood makes one assume that nothing terrible could happen.
The key themes of this film are identity and religion, and biblical scriptures are referenced throughout to highlight the latter. A biblical scripture that grabs the attention of the viewer is Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Juxtaposed with a scene where Dr Cline is seen in his office masturbating, the director makes a bold statement about his faith and actions.
The siblings grapple with their identity when their paternity test results are revealed. This leads them to question who they are. One sibling, Julie Harmon said, “[You] go back to everything that you’ve known about yourself. It just completely washes away your identity.”
When one knows their identity, it may assist them in strengthening their character and boost their confidence. In addition, one can live their life with purpose and establish relationships with other people with greater ease.
The documentary enables viewers to think critically and analyse the alleged perpetrator’s motives and intent. The film consists of sources such as colleagues, patients, a news reporter and prosecutors that greatly assist viewers in doing so.
From their perspective, Dr Cline is a villain who destroyed the lives of many. The film’s only shortcoming is the omission of Dr Cline’s side of the story, there are no testimonies from his family and friends to speak to his character.
The scenes of the film also consist of emotive editing. For example, there is a scene that shows an empty swing of a child in an unknown yard. As viewers witness this scene, victims continue to share their story in the background and explain how they were desperate to have children. In the voices of these victims, one can hear the sincerity of their wishes to have children.
Our Father is an outstanding film that captures the tragic experience of victims, encourages a discourse about fertility and the ethics of doctors. But told through one central character, Ballard and with little insight into Dr Cline, leaves one wanting and wondering.
Vuvu rating: 8/10
FEATURED IMAGE: DNA paternity test results. Photo: YouTube
- Wits Vuvuzela, REVIEW: Devilsdorp, August 2021.
- Wits Vuvuzela, REVIEW: Blood and Water – Bloody good show, watered down by silly inconsistencies, May 2020.
- Wits Vuvuzela, REVIEW: Who Killed Malcom X? April 2020.