Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roots and Biology: A Family Tale

By SF Dell

“She thought I would have a negative reaction,” Thackary Grossman says, describing why his mother waited 39 years to tell him the secret. “She never really found the time. Each day goes by. It’s such a big thing: it is hard to just get it out. It’s easy to keep letting the time pass.”
After receiving the shocking news, Thackary turned to trusted friends Kathy Klausner and Beni Strebel. “We helped him work through the emotional stuff,” Strebel explains.
After learning of his biological father’s identity, a period of six years passed before Thackary Grossman and Walt Tulecke would meet.
A married man raising four daughters at the time of the affair, Walt was scared of his own family’s reaction to the news of a secret son. For years, Walt was resistant to acknowledging the familial possibility of Thackary. But Thackary wouldn’t let it go. His persistence led to a paternity test and ultimately, an open door.
An affair that was over soon after it began more than 45 years ago, had lost its potent sting and shame. Curiosity and acceptance lead the family on a journey to discover a brother and a son.

Facing the unknown
Just two weeks before the scheduled father and son meeting, Klausner and Strebel asked Thackary if he wanted them to document the event. He did, however, a discussion ensued. “It took six years to convince Walt to meet you,” Klausner recalls saying, “and now you are going to tell him that you want to include a film crew.” She asked him to sleep on it.
But Thackary loved the idea, “They asked and it felt right.”
“It’s a very brave act,” says film co-producer/director Kathy Klausner, explaining how surprised she and partner/producer Beni Strebel were when first Thackary, then various family members, consented to filming the awkward process.
Later Walt would explain that one of his friends, as well, had suggested filming the series of events.
Everything just fell into place.
“The film finds its groove in depictions of raw emotion vividly captured on screen,” says Klausner. “The characters seem unfazed by the camera, even when discussing the most painful subjects.”
“It’s the loss of those 45 years that the film evokes most effectively,” producers explain. “In Thackary’s Time the passage of time becomes a key character, for this is a film about missed timings and attempts to make up for lost time.”

Truth set free
“It took years for me to get the courage up, says Thackary’s mother Baba Herrick. “I was mostly concerned with regard to my relationship with Thackary–that he would judge me, be angry with me for not having told him.”
One night, mother and son were hanging out, “We hadn’t watched a movie together for awhile. There we were in this living room, in the quiet afterward."
“It was a heavy movie. We were processing the movie.”
“Very emotional,” adds Thackary.
“Very emotional movie,” Baba agrees. “I remember having the realization. It’s time! Now is the time. It’s happening. Go do it.”
After telling her son that she had something to share, “It’s a biggy,” Baba told him. “be prepared.”
“Your father is not your biological father.”
Nearly six years later, Walt has a similiar moment.
“When I had the three daughters in one room,” says Walt, “I said ‘Ahhh, this is the time.’ I told them. They said, ‘Oh gosh a brother? We’ve got a brother? I don’t beleive it.’ Then they laughed. And I laughed.”

A life of it’s own
“Thackary was really into this project,” Strebel explains. “He really embraced it. “We [Klausner and Strebel] arranged all these meetings–informal forums–and motivated the conversation. It created a safe environment, a sort of therapeutic environment. He was really into the process of this thing.”
The couple embarked upon this journey as supportive friends wanting to document an important event, realizing after several shoots that the story was taking on a life of it’s own. A story that is bigger than all of it’s components.

Scenario humanized
A statement on the films website, reads:
With the certainty of paternal identity provided by DNA testing, more people are discovering biological fathers and changing the definition of family. Thackary’s Time probes a social reality that was previously suppressed, but is becoming more common.
As acceptance of different family types grows, children of freshly discovered biological fathers dare to explore new relationships and construct new family configurations. Thackary’s Time follows one man on this expedition.

In over our heads?
“At one point we did ask him, ‘How is it for you that we are always tagging along, sort of in-your-face with the camera?’ There were very intimate moments.” After traveling with him for a week to Yellow Springs, Ohio, meeting three sisters and an assortment of other relations with the camera rolling, Klausner asks Thackary, “How has the process been for you?”
Somewhere in the silence, before his reply, her concerns leaned toward the affirmative. “I was wary that we were imposing.” She considered the possibility that maybe they had taken this thing too far. The delicate dance between friends sharing their vulnerabilities, family, and intamacy while filming a documentary, had a line been crossed?
Nothing was further from the truth, Thackary was moved by their tireless devotion to the project and to him.“They were with me, my allies,” says Thackary. “They were my support.”

It is time
As a culture, we westerners are inclined to turn away from the uncomfortable. To bear witness is taboo. We afford others a privacy for their grief and suffering and struggles with the human condition. Thackary’s Time is a film made by friends that did not turn away. It is intimate and revealing.
One mother’s fear, fear of telling a love bound truth silences her for 39 years. One son’s willingness to take risks initiates a chain of unknown possibilities. He dives in head first to face the only reality there is. We, the audience experience this liberation from fear.
Exposed and vulnerable, facing disappointment, loss and pain, the film follows a broken family bravely attempting to put pieces of life together and foster seeds of relationships previously not cast. Will they germinate? Will they mature? Will they bear fruit?

A screening of Thackary’s Time is set for Saturday, February 5 (2011) in the Dance Palace Church space at 8 p.m. Seating is limited, the event is free. Seating to the San Francisco screening of the film, scheduled for February 1 in the Dolby screening room, is sold out. For more information or to view the trailer visit <>

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