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Published on May 2, 2016

Emily Abt / USA / 2015 /90 min / Documentary

“Daddy Don’t Go” explores the crisis of fatherlessness in America by capturing two years in the lives of four disadvantaged fathers in New York City as they fight to defy the odds against them. And the odds are real - men living in poverty are more than twice as likely to become absent fathers than their middle-class peers (U.S. Census Bureau). “Daddy Don’t Go” illuminates the hardships that impoverished fathers face and provides compelling portraits of men who are unwavering in their commitment to parenthood despite those challenges.

Alex, 26, is a single father of West Indian descent who lives with his toddler son “Junior” in a decaying Harlem shelter. “I gotta be dead or someone would have to beat me up for me to be a deadbeat dad,” says Alex when asked if he fears being separated from his son. Alex keeps Junior out of the foster care system for two years but then faces a new challenge to his family’s well-being: jail time.

Nelson, 27, is a former Latin King gang member and full-time daddy to his toddler son and two girls from his partner Rebecca’s previous relationships. Nelson is adamant about staying away from “street life” even in the face of unemployment. In his own words: “It’s real hard out here to get a job. Sometimes I feel like going back to my old ways but I choose not to. It’s not just me anymore, I have a family.” When Nelson learns about a work opportunity in Florida, he and Rebecca leave the Bronx in search of a better life.

Roy, 29, is a Caucasian ex-offender who won full custody of his toddler son Caiden when the boy’s mother succumbed to drug addiction. Roy and Caiden now live with his parents as Roy tries to overcome his criminal past as well as a troubled relationship with his own father. Roy says that his dad was a bad example and is determined to raise his own son differently: “A 16-year-old doesn’t catch a life-sentence for no reason…I won’t let my son have demons like I did.”

Omar, 36, is an African-American father who has full-custody of three children with special needs. He strives to prove to the judge in Bronx Family Court that he is fit to parent in spite of multiple challenges. When Omar’s new wife jeopardizes the children’s welfare, he is faced with an impossible decision. “I feel like being a father is the only thing I’m good at and that’s what makes me not give up,” declares Omar.

“Daddy Don’t Go” is a tough but tender journey that aims to illuminate the everyday struggles of disadvantaged fathers. This intimate, verité film pays homage to every man who negates the “deadbeat dad” stereotype with a deep love for his children. By allowing the viewer extraordinary access into the daily lives of its subjects, “Daddy Don’t Go” will remove the negative lens through which underprivileged fathers are currently viewed and offer audiences a new image of the American family.


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