The Sarasota Film Festival gives filmgoers a rare and exciting opportunity to meet filmmakers and actors who are beginning the journey of releasing their films. I got the chance to sit down with the charming and immensely talented team behind A Song Still Inside at the filmmakers’ lounge, and we had an enlightening discussion about family life in the 21st century. The trio—Gregory Collins, the writer and director, along with Rodrigo Lopresti and Susan Highsmith, the starring actors—are a modern family of sorts who have come together to make this brilliant film about the choices families must make to achieve balance in their lives. Collins is the father of two young girls and the film relates to his life as a parent but is not autobiographical. Lopresti plays Mike, a father who is the primary caregiver while his actress wife Maggie, played by Highsmith, makes a film. Mike is an actor and writer, and attempts to keep his career afloat while his wife becomes the provider. The pair have a great deal of easy chemistry and a loving but strained relationship. Collins feels that this very personal and intimate film is a great conversation starter to examine changing gender roles and the difficulties inherent in dual-career families. He said that he loves to explore issues of identity, and Mike’s character, sympathetically interpreted by Lopresti in a virtuoso performance, struggles against losing himself in his love for his family. Mike makes some difficult and inappropriate decisions in the film, and Maggie is jolted back into her role as nurturer.
“Ultimately it’s the woman’s baby and the man is the helper,” Collins said, which I thought was fascinating, particularly in light of the fact that the film largely focuses on the incredible bond between father and son. In my “Women and the Law” class, we focus on gender equity and whether that goal is truly achievable. Until we address gender roles head-on, as Collins does so creatively in his highly entertaining and engaging film, we will likely continue to fall back on shorthand despite all of the strides we have made. Films that flip the script like this one does will help us all on our journey as we find our way as parents. Mike’s plight as a father is so universal, it may help move us forward toward a deeper understanding of the challenges of modern parenting.Collins, like Nina Davenport, filmmaker of First Comes Love (who I interviewed earlier this week) also opened up to me about the problems he sees in contemporary society. He believes that our society professes to be “family-friendly,” but instead is actually a “hostile environment” for families. He said you “get baby-bashed all the time,” so families end up being relegated to specific activities and unable to fully integrate children into their lives. For example, he said “family movies” are usually cartoons, not films about family relationships.
Highsmith said she drew upon her early life as a nanny for her role as Maggie, and she agreed that our culture is very “fear-based” when it comes to raising children. Collins also talked about the high price of child care, and how difficult it is to make a living when so much of what we earn goes to paying someone to watch our children.
“I wanted to make a film that I wanted to watch,” Collins said. He wanted to “mine his day-to-day life” to tell a story that would address how we choose to prioritize among our roles as “parents, partners, and professionals,” and how one area invariably suffers as we make room for these other roles. He compared taking his film to film festivals, such as the Sarasota Film Festival (which all three are loving), to sending a child off to daycare.
“You give it love and hope it’s embraced,” Collins said. Come on, Sarasota—let’s show this beautiful movie, A Song Still Inside, some love. The film screens Friday, April 12 at 2:30 p.m. Try not to miss it!