“When we lose our aged parents, we lose our link to the past.” Denton visual artist Shari Vance created and directed this short documentary a year after nearly losing her father to a heart condition. She had already lost her mother. On the brink of facing the rest of her life without parents, Vance discovers passion for uncovering the genealogical layers that made her.
This Thin Line Fest documentary chronicles a road trip where Vance and her father Bobby Faulkner go in search of his grandfather’s story. Zachery Falkner lived only 30 years, from 1881-1911. Family rumors had him dying young in multiple ways from a gunshot to a plague. Vance and her dad follow a trail of relatives and documents from East Texas to Mississippi trying to root out the truth.
At first, this doc is an interesting genealogical trek by these two to discover a nugget of family lore. But quickly, the viewer realizes the story is a much deeper one focused on the present.
In one scene, Vance recalls to her father the stories her mom used to tell her about when she was young, about people and places and happenings that shaped her. As kids often do, Vance tuned her mom out more than in and regrets now not listening then.
The emotional distance between father and daughter is tangible to viewers. The desire to connect with her aging father before time wins is clearly Vance’s real drive for this trip. It is a touching story, a reminder that the clock is always ticking.
I am only slightly older than Vance at the filming of “Finding Faulkner.” This is indeed a strange life-stage we are in. It is a moment in time where children and parents are in an often uncomfortable, difficult dance of transition, of roll reversal. We watch our parents shrink and slip. We work to balance bigger chunks of time for them within the daily grind that relentlessly churns on. We strive to be grown up and handle what they cannot for themselves anymore. And all the while, the child within is screaming, “I want my mommy! I need my daddy!” And we wonder what the world will feel like without them in it.
I loved “Finding Faulkner” and empathized with Vance throughout. It is a poignant true tale of taking action, reaching out, and connecting to family heritage while there’s still time.