I walked into Plaza Atlanta Theater for a special viewing and panel discussion of the “In My Father’s House” documentary with some preconceived notions that were immediately proven wrong. I thought it would be a lingering “Who Do You Think You Are” type journey of a rapper searching for his father. Would it take him digging through birth documents or death certificates? Would it take months or years for them to meet in person? Nope. Grammy-winning rapper, Che “Rhymefest” Smith, tracked down the man he hadn’t seen in 20 years with just a few phone calls. The pace of the film was perfect and fit the speedy mood of Rhymefest’s reconciliation. This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here were genuinely mine, consideration was paid to me to review this film. Keep reading to find out what happened when the film ended and what I said to Rhymefest in person.
Rhymefest’s music career has led him to meet international leaders, win a Grammy and an Oscar, while earning million dollar recording contracts.
But success could not replace the lingering absence of his father who he hadn’t seen since he was 12 years old.
Maybe you can identify with him. Do you have an addict in your family? Someone who goes in and out of the family’s lives, yet has a heart of gold? That’s who Brian, Rhymefest’s father, is. Throughout the film, his struggles tugged at your heart and made you fall out of your seat laughing.
“The film offers a probing take on memory and identity in a family two generations removed from slavery as it tracks Che and Brian’s shared journey to create a new legacy for themselves, their community and the next generation of family.”
“In My Father’s House” Documentary
You’re immediately drawn into the film when Rhymefest and his wife, Donnie, buy his father’s childhood home. You can sense the longing and family they’re working to re-create.
“I went to find the personal who could settle my home.” ~ Rhymefest
But the setting is the Southside of Chicago which makes international news for all the wrong reasons: violence and poverty.
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When Rhymefest was younger he admits to seeking gang life as a way to get “guidance,” support and love.
One of the most poignant scenes of the documentary was inside “Donda’s House” named after Kanye West’s late mother. Rhymefest and his wife run the center to encourage Chicago’s young people to pursue the arts. A young man who’s lost his father and brother to Chicago violence raps about robbing and killing someone himself. Rhymefest encourages him to rhyme, instead about loss and hurt. Cycles continue unless we break them.
“I knew half my roots.” ~ Ryhmefest
What connects Rhymefest and Brian is the game of chess and their yearning to finally be together, instead of apart while living a few miles apart. “In My Father’s House” won Best Documentary at the Bentonville Film Festival. When you watch the trailer or download it on demand you’ll see why. The film weaves together fatherhood and forgiveness in a moving way.
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R&B Star Anthony Hamilton has worked with Rhymefest on past projects and attended the panel discussion. In this video Hamilton discussion his own struggle growing up without a father, then reconnecting with him years later.
VIDEO: Anthony Hamilton Found His Father
After the film and panel discussion I had a brief discussion with Rhymefest. For once in my life, I didn’t have a question. I told him his father reminded me of relatives and family friends I’d grown up with. I also wished him and his wife well on their journey to get pregnant.
I highly recommend that you download the film on iTunes; purchase or rent it at Walmart.com to watch with your family over the holidays. It can spark some in-depth conversations about poverty and parenting.
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