Movie Review: Daddy and Papa

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International
Director/Producer Johnny Symons - DADDY & PAPA (2002) and BEYOND CONCEPTION: MEN MAKING BABIES (2005)

I recently met with filmmaker Johnny Symons, a member of the vibrant Bay Area documentary film community, and screened his latest two films, the award-winning DADDY & PAPA (2002), and BEYOND CONCEPTION: MEN MAKING BABIES (2005) – both about gay men having children. When I interviewed Symons he said that he became a documentary filmmaker, in part, to help dispel the widely accepted stereotypes about gay men, through film. He wants to portray gay men as full complex human beings, challenging myths about gays. He also wants gay men to see themselves represented accurately.

DADDY & PAPA is Symons’ personal narrative told with warmth, and humor, which traces his journey with his partner William, to parenthood, through adoption from the overburdened foster care system; it also follows three other gay male families and their unique paths to parenthood. Symons explores his doubts, challenges, and sometimes unexpected joys he and William find adopting through the foster system. This is an authentic depiction of how challenging parenthood is for anyone, with a focus on the additional struggles that gay men face. Told with a light, witty touch and good pacing, this story holds up, and would interest anyone.

Symons has a knack for choosing appealing characters, including himself. His sincerity comes through the moment the film opens, and he seems like the kind of person you’d want as your friend. DADDY & PAPA received a national Emmy nomination, and was an Official Selection at the Sundance Film Festival. This hour-long DVD is available for rent or purchase on:

Johnny Symons’ newest film, BEYOND CONCEPTION: MEN MAKING BABIES is a 75 minute film about a gay male couple going through the process of conceiving a baby with a surrogate mother who is part of a lesbian couple. The film follows the two couples, and the egg donor through the two-year process. With smooth editing, the well-paced compelling story explores multiple facets of the surrogacy choice. It is a very personal look at the trials and tribulations of this high tech method of adding a baby.

BEYOND CONCEPTION will premiere in June on Discovery Health Channel. It will also screen at FRAMELINE 30 –San Francisco International Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Transgender Film Festival on June 24, 2006, at 11:00am (PST) at the Roxie Film Center.

Johnny Symons is working on his next film titled ASK NOT, about the "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy in the American military. He is looking for active duty service members or their families to participate in this documentary. I look forward to this one.

Johnny Symons’ films deal with some of the most contentious political issues in America, exploring them on an intimate level, revealing their complexities while at the same time demystifying them and making them accessible. For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.

Air date: 6/21/06
More Information:
Daddy and Papa
Johnny Symons, 2002; Gay Issues, Parenting