“Mommy?” A young boy runs towards the camera with a ball, his face crumpled and close to tears. “Mommy is over there,” the man behind the camera says, and the boy runs off smiling. Not Mommy, is a short film by Brooklyn-based director Reinaldo Marcus Green about his son Rio, which captures the everyday beauties and tragedies of fatherhood. It is the second instalment of Mother Nature, a brilliant three-part series of films by NOWNESS that put parenting under the microscope.
Narrating over shots of daily life with Rio, Reinaldo reflects on his experience as a dad and how it continues to change and challenge him. “I find most of my days are literally waking up and figuring out how to keep him alive by the time his mom comes home,” Reinaldo says during the film, as his son runs away across a busy subway station.
Through these funny and poignant snapshots Reinaldo provides an incredibly honest portrait of fatherhood, capturing the moments that nothing but being a parent can prepare you for. Filmed on his iPhone, they are intimate and real. “The phone seemed to me to be the only real way to capture the frenetic energy of the everyday life of a dad,” he explains. “Life as a dad is not very polished — it’s messy, chaotic, and bumpy, and that’s the way I wanted the film to feel.”
Growing up in a single parent household, with his father as the prime carer inspired Reinaldo to make the film. “My brother and I were very close to my dad. He taught me everything I know,” he tells me. “Not Mommy was my way of showing the little part that I’m playing in my son’s life. And with the hope that as he grows older, and his world view expands, that I too will grow as a parent and that we may learn from each other.”
It is this navigation of fatherhood that the film really gets to the heart of. Reinaldo is not ‘Mommy’, but he discovering his place within his son’s life. “Now I’m learning as I go. Trying to right the wrongs in my life, trying to remember that it’s ok that I don’t know everything. I’m more open as a father. I have to be,” he tells us. As the film ends and we watch Rio playing on his dad’s shoulders, all the yelling, the hitting, the tantrums and the calling for Mommy, fade into the background, becoming tiny tragedies that seem to make everything worth it.
To find out more about the series visit nowness.com/series/mother-nature