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DOC NYC 2017 Women Directors: Meet Rachel Dretzin—“Far From the Tree”

by Lyra H.

Photo: Participant Media

Photo: Participant Media

Rachel Dretzin has been honored with numerous awards for her documentaries, including the Emmy Award, the Peabody, the DuPont Columbia, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. For many years she has directed and produced documentaries for PBS’ Frontline, with credits including The Lost Children of Rockdale County, A Hidden Life, and Failure to Protect. Dretzin is co-founder of Ark Media, a Brooklyn-based production company and a leading producer of nonfiction content.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

RD: Far From the Tree is a film about how we respond to the stranger among us — especially when that stranger is our own child. How do you bridge a connection to someone profoundly different when they are in your own family? To me, this film is about the beauty of difference at a time when we are watching a daily, jarring assault on the “other,” an experience which, in my opinion, has coarsened our country and unsettled all of us.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

RD: Andrew Solomon’s book Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity, which is passionately humanistic and full of stories that seize the heart. When I read it, all I could think was “this has to be a movie!” It turned out I wasn’t the only filmmaker who was entertaining that idea?—?but ultimately, I was lucky enough to obtain the rights to make the film.

W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?

RD: I want people to feel their hearts open a little bit. After I first read Solomon’s book, I walked out on the street and realized no one looked the same to me. My assumptions about people who look and act “different” had been shaken to their roots. People tell me they have a similar experience after seeing the film and I take that as a profound compliment.

(To read the complete interview, please visit Women & Hollywood.)