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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

Why Am I Childless on Spring Break and Who Will Select Daddying Film Fest's Atticus Award Finalists?

By Scott Beller

Daddying Editor and D3F Director of Communications

This week was my kids' spring break. It was the first time my wife and I have spent the occasion without at least one of our daughters with us. Both of them traveled with their high school crew boatmates to South Carolina for the week to enjoy three-a-day rowing, team bonding activities, and barely passable cafeteria grub while we headed to the Big Easy for three-a-day French Quarter hikes, jazz, and exquisite meals of which we tried our best not to immediately text them photos.

Can you fill the "kid void" with shrimp 'n' grits? We tried...

We also did our best to not dwell on the fact that, given our teens' love of rowing, spring break trips with the kids are a thing of the past. So, I guess that's it. From now on, our vacation pix will be filled with things like beignets, shrimp 'n' grits, and étouffée instead of our kids. And despite how delicious those foods absolutely were, I couldn't help but feel a little empty.

As I flew home alone and my wife flew the opposite direction for a business trip, that reality continued to creep in. The movie I'd downloaded to watch in-flight, Brian and Charles, oddly brought things even more into focus. It's a quirky yet simple story (shot almost like a mockumentary) of a lonely Welsh handyman and inventor named Brian, who creates an intelligent robot he names Charles. While Brian teaches Charles about the world around him, as a father figure might, he simultaneously tries to protect him from it by keeping his creation a secret. As Charles learns more, he longs to see and do more. And as Brian continuously asserts boundaries, his childlike robot increasingly acts out and attempts to push them. Of course, this is something to which all parents, particularly we parents of teens, can relate.

The film's uplifting ending (I won't spoil it completely) highlights perhaps the most difficult of all parenting inevitabilities and something I've found myself writing more about on the blog over the past year or so: letting go.

Do you like quirky and heartwarming? I do.

Brian and Charles made a suitable transition home from vacation and back to both a parenting and film-critiquing mindset for me. The film – which is excellent, by the way – debuted at last year's Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for a 2023 BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Film. I found the characters and their relationship charming. Brian struck me as a more self-aware Wallace (of Wallace & Gromit) and Charles as a sort of steampunk Johnny 5 from the 80s comedy Short Circuit. And I found the parenting themes even more touching than the love story between Brian and Hazel, the daughter of a woman Brian works for. Even though it is an unconventional take on father-child involvement, I think Brian and Charles is another film that would blend well with those our jurors are about to begin considering for this year's Daddying Film Festival & Forum (D3F).

But who am I to judge? Speaking of judges...

The first order of D3F business upon my return from vacation was to announce that we've filled all seats on this year's panel of expert judges. The VIP panel, comprised of experts in the entertainment industry, arts, academia, and some of our Atticus Award Finalists/Winners from 2022's inaugural Daddying Film Festival, will be responsible for selecting finalists from submissions by 1st-grade through undergraduate students, dads/dad figures, and other indie filmmakers.

The D3F 2023 expert judges are:

  1. Margaret Parsons, a film curator who founded the film program at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, where she was Head of Film for more than 30 years. She has served as board member for major film organizations, including the Robert Flaherty Seminar and Washington Environmental Film Festival, and on the editorial boards for The Moving Image and the Getty Trust’s Program for Art on Film. She has been a judge for a number of international film festivals and her work in film preservation has earned her awards from the governments of France, Czech Republic, Italy, Romania, and Georgia.

  2. Dr. Carol Darcy, a lifelong educator who worked with the World Organization for Early Childhood Education’s US Chapter to organize an annual “film festival” at the National Association for Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference until 2016. She is an advocate for the appropriate and skillful use of media for young children, families, and teachers, and created the professional development workshop “Being A Pro-Active Media Literacy Advocate.”

  3. Fredda Weiss, a film producer, costume designer, and member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1987, she was nominated for an Oscar for Best Short Film for producing Love Struck. Her additional producing credits include The Best of Times (1986), starring Kurt Russell and Robin Williams; Shoot To Kill (1988), starring Sidney Poitier and Tom Berringer; and Zandalee (1991), starring Nicolas Cage, Erika Anderson, and Judge Reinhold.

  4. Mark Maxey, an Emmy Award-winning producer and President of Rolling Pictures. His recent motion picture productions include Kyra Sedgwick’s feature directorial debut Space Oddity starring Kevin Bacon; Mayim Bialik’s directorial debut As They Made Us, starring Dustin Hoffman, Candice Bergen, Dianna Agron, and Simon Helberg; Rare Objects, directed by and starring Katie Holmes; and the documentary feature Up To Snuff, which Maxey wrote, directed, and produced, featuring Aaron Sorkin, Martin Sheen, and Tom Arnold. His executive producer credits include The Kill Room, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, directed by Nicol Paone. Maxey is chairman of the Producers Guild of America - Capital region and a member of the Television Academy and Documentary Producers Alliance. He is co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Washington West Film Festival, the only film festival to donate 100 percent of box office proceeds to help at-risk youth and families in need. Maxey serves on the boards of Women in Film & Video, Artistic Fuel Foundation, and the Rock & Roll for Children Foundation benefiting families fighting pediatric cancer at the National Institutes of Health Children’s Inn.

  5. Robert Manganelli, father of Gio and Catalene. Now developing a documentary, We Were Here. He participated in Writers and Directors Labs at Robert Redford's Sundance Institute. Wrote/directed the award-winning short, Listen Carefully, which was selected by several festivals, including Sundance, AFI, Haifa Israel, Porto Portugal, and Cork Ireland. Manganelli earned his MA from UCLA Film School. As a grad student, he was nominated for a Paramount Pictures Fellowship.

  6. Deborah Boldt, an award-winning filmmaker with expertise in using film as an educational catalyst. She is the Executive Director & Co-Founder of REEL FATHERS. Her 1987 documentary, Miles to Go, which she directed with Sarah Stein and co-produced with Hilary Maddux, won an Academy Award Certificate of Special Merit. Her film, Fresco, was broadcast as a national PBS special. She’s an Aspen Institute Scholar/Lecturer, recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Regional Fellowship, and served on the board of New York Women in Film and Television.

  7. Chris Moore, a television writer, producer, and graduate of Chapman University’s screenwriting program. He has written for Netflix’s award-winning Family Reunion, as well as the CBS series The Neighborhood and Nickelodeon’s Young Dylan. He is currently writing and producing an animated project for Fox’s Tubi TV.

  8. Cris Iannucci, a New York City-based Assistant Director, Cris works in network TV and feature film production. With a BA in Performance from the University of N