El Father Plays Himself – Film Review

Beautiful in visuals and story, El Father Plays Himself is a documentary look at the making of a film, starring a father playing himself in his son’s work.

Directed by Mo Scarpelli, this film allows us to join the crew of a feature production coming to life. Far from the typical DVD special features, El Father Plays Himself is a film in itself, letting us see and learn about filming processes, and how what we see on our screens isn’t always everything. Scarpelli says that the film “is this fear and love colliding”, looking at how a son rewriting his father’s history without the main character being aware, can bring to us a light on how children connect to or see their parents, especially if the story looks at harsh moments.

Jorge Thielen Armand, the Son, wants his father to address his past and how his family may have been affected by things that the father has done over the years. Reading into his work, he normally casts non-actors, to really be able to access raw emotions, and I think that this film is a brilliant example of how raw emotions and truth can really help a film to be more than just a film. La Fortaleza, the film being made in the documentary, provides the father and son time to come together and learn about each other, something that Jorge says is the first time it has been done in their lives. It’s amazing to know how a son’s interpretation of his father’s life can lead to art and pain being made and explored, but also healing and processing to take place. I think to show this through truth in the documentary, as well as a more fictional side is incredible to witness. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I can truly appreciate the work behind it all.

The Father, played by Jorge Roque Thielen, is asked by his son to be in his film, without knowing that the character is written based on him. It’s so fascinating to see the Father’s journey throughout the documentary, seeing the fantastic highs, yet the loud and upsetting lows as he starts to understand his son more as well as his own life choices. To see him truly hurt himself when acting, or getting his hair done, you can tell how this father does love his son and wants to do the best he can for this role, even if that juxtaposes the character he plays and the life he’s led.

Like I said, I really liked the filming style, how it felt as if we were part of the filming process, in the room as arguments took place, or on set looking down a lens. I think this approach to the film really helps to create a visual masterpiece, adding to the masterpiece that the story is. We don’t know the outcome or what happens, or if the father and son feel connected, but I like that it’s left open, unless you want to ruin the magic and research it, although I won’t judge. I really liked this way of storytelling, and I hope the people who see it can learn to appreciate their family or the films they see in a different way.

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