Filmmaker documents journey of defining manhood

BRIA GRANVILLE | Staff Photographer
Filmmaker David Sampliner answers audience questions after a special screening of his documentary “My Own Man” Thursday at the Chautauqua Cinema.

David Sampliner revealed the personal journey of defining his manhood last Thursday at Chautauqua Cinema during a Meet the Filmmaker Series event.

Sampliner is the director and subject of the documentary “My Own Man,” which is now streaming on Netflix. The film accompanied last week’s lecture theme, “Boys Will Be Boys, Then Men.”

Sampliner discussed how the documentary has crossed barriers and has been something people of all backgrounds can relate to.

“I got this amazing letter from an evangelical, 65-year-old wife of a pastor in Indianapolis, and she said that my experience resonated with her,” he said.

Sampliner said when art works, those boundaries do not entirely disappear; instead, art can temporarily allow someone to step into someone else’s shoes. Sampliner hopes that is where the film succeeds.

Following a screening of “My Own Man,” Sampliner discussed various aspects of the film, his process to self-discovery as a man, and answered questions.

An audience member asked Sampliner to explain why he set his father up as a tyrant, but wanted to be like his father once his own child was born.

“I wasn’t trying to become my father necessarily, but I began to think that all of the negative ideas I had about masculinity — which was to be tough, mean and cruel — were not helping me actually get to know me,” Sampliner said.

If he was going to learn the masculine side of himself, Sampliner said, getting to know his father was essential since he represented that.

“I felt like the part of myself I didn’t know — maybe some part of that was manliness — but I had sort of thrown out altogether,” he said.

According to the director’s statement on the “My Own Man” website, Sampliner was unsure of how to bring his sons into manhood, since he did not feel he had yet arrived. He tried numerous ways to channel his masculine side, but everything he embarked on led back to his complicated relationship with his father.

“When I was meeting with my life coach, she told me, ‘It’s not that you are learning to love your father, but remembering the love you already have,’ ” he said.

Unfortunately, Sampliner said, many people acknowledge the love they have for their father only when he dies. Sampliner was able to acknowledge that love while his father is still alive.

“Hopefully, something my sons take from this is to not do what their father did, and start the process of loving a lot earlier,” Sampliner said.