Hot Docs 2024: ‘My Dad’s Tapes’

Ever since the the death of Leonard Watson in 2006, aspiring filmmaker Kurtis Watson has struggled to find closure and understand his Dad’s decision to commit suicide.  It’s been an upsetting topic for his family, who are either still grieving or are more in the dark than Kurtis about the tragedy.

My Dad’s Tapes features Kurtis, the film’s director and the youngest in his family, trying to organize a way to convene everyone to decompress.  Watson tenderly interviews his mother and sisters in a stark manner that eliminates distractions and creates an intimate environment.  One sister comments that the interview feels like therapy, Kurtis reciprocates the comparison partly because this project is just as constructive for him as well.

Watson (who receives filmmaking assistance and guidance from producer/writer Rob Viscardis [Before We Arrive: The Story of the Weber Brothers]) has made an incredibly personal documentary that not only improves the health of his family, but helps break the stigma around discussing mental health and suicide.  There are also beautiful exchanges where Kurtis reconnects with his past.  An unforgettably beautiful interview between him and pastor Jacques Nadeau (a former police officer who is more than familiar with the Watson family tragedy, and can relate to Kurtis) is an excellent display of men allowing themselves to be vulnerable to talk openly about their feelings.  I doubt I’ll watch anything more touching this year.

The film’s title is a reference to the sole connection Kurtis has to his father.  Watson and editor Viscardis use a collection of digitized videotapes to provide context for the family’s memories and to, ultimately, eulogize Leonard Watson.  Through this preserved footage and these immersive, personalized touches, the audience feels like part of the family by the end of this one-of-a-kind doc.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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