Andres Dussan is the director of new film about fatherhood, scripted by the writer of Men Behaving Badly, Simon Nye. Here he tells insideMAN how his own emotional journey as a father inspired him to work on the film.
I grew up in a very successful family. My dad was a very successful guy, very good at university at work. My mum was a very disciplined woman and hardworking. There was a kind of harsh discipline at home, but at the same time my dad was always around and was a very loving caring guy.
At school, I kind of became very competitive. I became the president of the school council in high school and then I created a couple of organisations at university.
I ended up working as an adviser to the president of Columbia when I was twenty something and I created another organisation that grew in seven different countries in Latin America and won millions of dollars of contracts.
I was, I think, a very aggressive, very competitive go-getter. I used to be a harsh boss, demanding everything from everybody and everything was kind of working I guess.
Trying to be a perfect dad
Then I got married and I had a child and suddenly there was this new person there and it was a kind of loving and very profound relationship. When my wife decided that she wanted to go back to work, I had a moment of wondering what I should do and I said to myself ‘I can do this, I can stay at home’.
It was a very big change to make suddenly but I did it and then a series of conflicts started to pop out. I guess I was trying to be a perfect dad, falling more into the disciplinarian side and I started to lose that emotional connection that I had with my son.
I could see him becoming more and more annoyed and scared of me over time and then I also started to see in my wife something that is in the film—I started to see the disappointment in her eyes.
At the beginning we were very in love and things like that and then she starts seeing a guy that she’s not that happy with, especially in the way of treating our son.
How the counsellor helped us
So I decided and I struggled and to tried to dig deeper and find out what was going on and why was I shouting at our two-year-old boy and things like that. We went to counselling and I think we were lucky enough to find a counsellor who was very practical and she said ‘look guys I’m going to see you five times and no more than five times’.
We had a very honest opening up of things and immediately we realised that I had some issues of my upbringing and my relationship with my parents and funnily enough I was copying the things I liked the least about my relationship with my parents. Some of the things I like, but I was copying the ones I liked the least and I realised I have to be able to deal with this.
And that’s when this very practical counsellor gave me a piece of paper exactly as in the movie and said ‘look if you’re having difficulty explaining what happened just write it down to yourself’.
So I wrote the letter that the main character writes in the film and it was, I think, a very magical moment. When you sit in front of a piece of paper and just put down disorganised ideas, you just vomit all those ideas onto a piece of paper and you kind of read them to yourself.
Maintaining a loving relationship with my son
It was a lot of very sad memories of being very harshly treated as a child, but very profound, so I decided to share that with my parents and there was a period of six months of sharing and asking for forgiveness one way or the other.
It was a beautiful kind of healing process and a liberating process because I guess my mum was falling into exactly the same trap as me, of trying to be a perfect mum and not just being and enjoying life.
So it was a kind of liberating process for us and I think at the end, when I think about it, it was what made me take the decision to explore inside myself and try to understand why I was behaving the way I was behaving.
It was that kind of loving relationship with my son that I really wanted to keep and maintain and that gave me a little bit of a push to do it. It wasn’t automatic, it took a couple of years but I stopped shouting, I stopped trying to be perfect, I just tried to be more there for him and since then I think we’ve been rebuilding that profound relationship.
It’s normal for a man to cry
My journey is one of the reasons why I ended up doing this film Down Dog. I like the fact that the key character is allowed to be vulnerable, he’s allowed to cry, he’s allowed to ask for help and then he gets help. I think that’s amazing.
When you grow up without a father then the alpha males you see in movies can become your role models. And then you have these young men behaving in such an aggressive way because they think that’s what they should be.
I think it’s important to make content that is different, that shows that there can be a mutually beneficial relationship between a man and a woman, that you can trust a woman and that a woman can trust a man, that there is communication etc, etc.
And I love the fact that children should be watching more films where that happens, where it’s absolutely normal for a man to break down, to cry, to feel sad, to ask for help and to get the help.
—Photo credit: Flickr/A&M-Commerce
In the run up to the film’s lanch, insideMAN will be running a series of articles about fatherhood and we’d love you to get involved. You can join the conversation on twitter by using the hashtag #MenBehavingDADly; leave a comment in the section below or email us with your thoughts and ideas for articles to [email protected].