Overview

Film Summary

It takes Sol Guy 20 years to watch the tapes his father recorded shortly before his death in 1998. They detail how a black man from Kansas City, Missouri arrived in a small town in British Columbia, Canada, determined to make a better life for his new family. The tapes prompt Sol to embark on a journey to better understand the biracial family that raised him and trace his Black American roots. He connects with his estranged sister and confronts the choices his father made. The Death of My Two Fathers is a letter to Sol’s own children, an exploration of the meaning of family, and a metaphor for how our human family must reconcile with our painful past to create a more hopeful future.

Director’s Statement: Coping with Grief and Healing Through Art

It took me 20 years to watch the tapes my father recorded shortly before his death in 1998. They detail how a Black man from Kansas City moved to a small Canadian town, determined to do something different with his life.

The tapes sent me on a path of rediscovering my roots, reexamining what it means to be Black in America, and reconnecting with the people my father left behind. As a better understanding of my father’s choices emerged, so did the parallels in my own.

In the midst of making what I thought was a film about my father’s life and death, my stepfather fell ill. Watching him approach death brought old memories back to the surface. The camera became my shield, allowing me to face the pain I feared most and work to keep cycles of history from repeating themselves.  This project has proven to me what I deeply believe: grieving and healing through creative practice is the true purpose of art and the role of the artist.

The Death of My Two Fathers is an exploration of how our human family must reconcile with our painful past if we hope to create a more hopeful future. It speaks to the complexities of multiracial identity and the persistence of racial trauma. It speaks to the challenges of fatherhood. It speaks to coping with grief and loss and the liberation that exists in facing our own mortality.

Above all, it speaks to my own children based upon the words my fathers spoke to me.

I hope that my family’s story can offer something for others to reflect on and hold throughout their own healing. 

Meet the Family

William Richard Guy

Sol’s father, William Richard Guy (also known as Guy and Bill), was born in 1944 in Waterloo, Iowa. He died in 1998 in Grand Forks, BC. He was a partner to Donna, Bobbie (Sol’s mom) and Leora (Sol’s stepmother), father to Travistine, Richard, Shoshana, Sol and Jayda. Though a complex man in many ways, he was the best father a boy could have asked for. Sol refers to William as his hero; as charismatic, magnetic and flawed. He carried the burden of his childhood and his decisions to leave his children, his first family, and the life he knew behind for something better in Canada. 

TRAVISTINE GUY

Sol’s eldest sister, Travistine, the first child of his father with Donna, was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Sol’s dad left her mother when she was 6 or 7. She saw their father a handful of times in her life. She visited Sol and his family in Grand Forks once when she was 18 and Sol was 8, and again in the summer of 1997, before William was dying and when he wanted to get all of his kids together. Now 56 years old, she is the powerful matriarch to the Guy family in Kansas City. She is the mother of 5 children - Dwayne, Gerome, Lee, Robin and Robert. She is a grandmother to 19. She is kind, insightful, incredibly forgiving, yet carries sadness and pain. She has had a hard life living on the margins of American society and the barriers it builds for people in her position. 

Barbara Ogletree (Bobbie)

Sol’s mom, also mother to his sister, Shoshana, was born and raised in the Catskills, in Mountaindale, NY in a predominantly Jewish community. She met their father, Richard, in Washington, DC in 1970, hitchhiked to Canada with him and has remained in Canada ever since. Some say she is the original hippie. Sol shares that Bobbie is the kindest person he knows, a devout Buddhist for over 40 years. Peace and loving kindness are at her core. She lives on the Sunshine Coast in BC.

FREYE PARKHOUSE

Sol’s mother's partner of 30 years, his stepfather, was a teacher, a believer with a boyish love of life and a mischievous smile. He came into Sol’s life when he was 15. Sol and Freye were always friends and he provided the support and safety for Sol’s mom that a son could only hope for. Alongside Sol’s mother, Freye provides the final lesson in the film as he faces his mortality. He and Bobbie are the spiritual center of the film.

Leora Gesser Guy

The love of Sol’s father’s life, she and Richard were together for 25 years. Sol has known Leora since he was 20 months old. She helped raise Sol and his sister Shoshana, and is the mother of his youngest sister, Jayda. She knew Richard best, helped him grow into the man he became, and literally nursed him through his sickness. She is Jewish and from Montreal. Leora lives in Grand Fork in the home that she and Richard built together. She is a working artist who loves to hike.

Table of Contents

Host Your Own Screening

Over the past two years, we’ve all come face to face with loss. 

More has changed than we ever imagined—from ways of life, to end of life, beliefs and relationships, to how we work. In the wake of this change, how do we: 

  • Face endings?
  • Grieve with grace?
  • Learn to embrace change with creativity and equanimity?
  • Support and stay connected despite distance and struggle? 
  • Gather in community to heal through art?

The Death of My Two Fathers (TDOMTF) is a courageous exploration of identity, fatherhood, life, and death. The film unpacks many of these questions. It investigates the meaning of family, explores race, and dives deep into what it means to face where we come from—not only for ourselves, but also for those who come after us.

We want to offer this film as a resource to actively engage with communities. Our hope is to inspire people to: 

  • Live intentionally
  • Face hard things 
  • Use creativity and conversation for understanding, healing with, and honoring loved ones

Through screenings and conversations with audiences and experts, we’ve recognized the unique potential of this film for creating conversations that hold space for healing and radical candor about grief, loss, and family. Art is healing!

Below is a guide with tips for hosting your own watch party and leading a discussion with family, friends, and guests. 

Knowing your Audience

Who are you inviting to your watch party: 

  • Friends? 
  • Family? 
  • Neighbors? 
  • Classmates? 

For an interesting discussion, prepare a few questions that touch on themes your guests will want to talk about. Some ideas: grief, storytelling, race, culture. We’ll share specific examples later on in the guide.

As you get ready to facilitate an experience of healing and art, remember that The Death of My Two Fathers can raise feelings of hurt and loss. Be intentional about creating a healthy and safe space for people to share freely. (Snacks and tissues are always a plus!).

Before your Screening

What do you want to get out of the event? In this guide, we’ve dropped goals, themes, and prompts to spark your thinking.

Make sure your guests know the watch party will include a discussion. Friends who have seen the film before can even bring their own questions. Healing through art is a group effort.

As the watch party organizer, your job is to keep the discussion on track and create the best opportunity for guests to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas about the film.

Discussion Goal Ideas to Get You Started

  • To spark conversations around identity and family. 
  • To break down cultural taboos around death and dying by modeling how to cope with a loved one dying and making the experience of loss accessible. 
  • To be a communal space for grieving. 
  • To inspire others to heal through art and use creativity as part of the process. 
  • To create space specifically for men and people of color to talk about life and loss. 
  • To support grief and caregiving groups in conversations about showing up for people. 
  • To inspire people to share their own stories and create legacy projects for their loved ones.
  • To support people interrogating where they come from. To help them see where they are going. 

Discussion Themes

  • How to live fully.
  • Death, mourning and grief through a cultural lens. 
  • Healing through art and creative practice. 
  • How to show up for the people who matter most both in challenging times and at the end of life. 
  • How systemic racism affects families.
  • How a shared understanding of the past helps us navigate identity and grow.

Tips for a Successful Discussion

  • Be prepared, the conversation may evoke strong emotions. Make sure your guests feel seen and heard as they share their personal experiences.
  • One way to make everyone feel seen is to reflect on what they share before moving to the next topic. (Example: “It sounds like you…” and “Has anyone else had a similar experience?”)
  • Not everyone will participate equally. Try to create opportunities for quieter guests to step forward if they desire. If someone is chiming in a lot, gently redirect back to the group.
  • If the conversation gets heated, acknowledge the active discussion. Agree to disagree and move to the next topic.
  • Allow the conversation to evolve and flow naturally.

Discussion Agenda

1. Grounding: When the film ends, invite your guests to join in a minute of meditative silence. You can ask people to close their eyes, take some deep breaths, and become present for the discussion.

2. Introductions: If you’ve brought together people who aren’t all well-acquainted, give everyone space to introduce themselves.

3. Group agreements: Share some discussion norms and ask guests to suggest their own as well.

4. Prompts: Get the discussion rolling with the general and/or thematic prompts that you pick from this guide. Healing with art can look different for every group.

Group Agreements

It’s a good idea to share ground rules for the discussion before diving in. You can customize these based on the setting. For example, hand raising might not be necessary for a small gathering in your living room, but is helpful in a lecture hall.

  1. Compassion: This discussion might bring up difficult emotions. Let’s be compassionate to ourselves and each other as we explore healing through art.
  2. One Voice: We agree not to interrupt each other, and will follow any hand raising norms.
  3. I Statements: We will speak from our own perspectives and refrain from giving unsolicited advice.  
  4. Share the Air: We will make space for all to participate by noticing when it's time to step up or step back.
  5. Privacy:  We will respect the privacy of the group. We won’t share information from the discussion outside of it.
  6. Active Listening: We agree to listen to and hear each other. 

Start the Discussion with General Prompts and Reactions

Get discussion flowing with some general questions. In some discussions, these will create threads where multiple guests weigh in. Stay mindful of time. While it’s great to hit several of the key themes from this guide, it’s not required. 

  • What did you see or hear in the film that connected for you?
  • Was there a character you resonated with? Why?
  • What kinds of growth or learning did you notice in the film?
  • Do any specific moments stand out for you? Why?

Lead the Discussion Using Thematic Prompts 

Below are questions related to key themes in the film. You can use these prompts to steer or kick start the discussion.

Theme: How to live life well. 

  1. Life is precious. We only have so much time with one another. What does living life fully mean to you?
  2. By confronting your past and mistakes, what patterns in your life would you like to change or revisit? How will this help you show up as a better version of yourself?
  3. William Guy and Bobbie made a big decision to hitchhike to Canada to start a new life. Have you made courageous turns in order to carve out a better life for you and your loved ones?
  4. What’s an example of an experience that you want to have with your loved ones, while you have the opportunity to do so?

Theme: Death, mourning and grief through a cultural lens.

  1. What cultural practices around death does your family observe?
  2. Do you feel like you are allowed to grieve? How do you carve space to mourn loss?
  3. What are some ways that you practice healing? Are these practices rooted in customs or traditions?
  4. Do you have cultural practices or customs for how to honor someone who has passed away? What about remembering a loved one who has passed?

Theme: Art for Healing. 

  1. Both Sol and his father use film and storytelling to share about their journeys with family, relationships, triumphs, and struggles. How can you use storytelling, art, and creativity for healing? 
  2. Throughout the film, Sol is vulnerable and open about personal stories. How does vulnerability encourage healing? Have you seen this in your own life?
  3. The film uses intergenerational filmmaking as a tool to share stories, understanding, love and healing. Do you have a creative outlet that was passed down to you, which you use as a method for healing, storytelling, and sharing love?  

Theme: How to show up for the people who matter most in difficult moments and at the end of life. 

  1. Have you shown up for someone in a difficult time or at their end of life? What did it take for you to show up and be present?  
  2. While caretaking, you often must put aside your own needs to help others. How can you create balance for yourself while caring for the needs of others? 
  3. How can running towards—rather than away from—supporting your loved ones help shape the way you show up in the world? 
  4. What lessons around caring for loved ones would you like to pass on to your children or the next generation? 
  5. Do you hold back from showing up for your loved ones? Why?

Theme: How systemic racism affects families.

  1. What are some push and pull factors of systemic racism that can cause families to migrate?  What were some of the benefits of moving and building a new life?
  2. How does systemic racism shape community safety and opportunities to thrive? What can we learn from understanding and addressing this?  
  3. Can you share a few examples of how systemic racism has been used to divide people by race and class?

Theme: Identity: How a shared understanding of the past helps us grow.

  1. If you have connected to lost or disconnected family members, has it helped you grow?  Who are the people you need to meet in your family to better understand where you came from? 
  2. The film is an intergenerational story Sol wants to share with his children. Do you have a family story that has been shared with you that you would like to pass on to the next generation?  
  3. There is an exponentially growing industry around building family histories and using DNA to connect to and learn about relatives. How does gaining a more robust and accurate story affect how you see yourself? 
  4. Is there an important family story that you would like to document?  List a few questions that you would like to ask your family member(s)?

Closing Out

As the discussion winds down, share final thoughts and any actions you might want your guests to take. 

Consider asking group members:

  • If they would feel comfortable recording a video response to the question: what are ways that you practice healing? Responses will live here.
  • If they have a moment to shout out The Death of My Two Fathers on social media. Please tag us—we love hearing what viewers have to say!

You have our utmost gratitude for taking the time to facilitate healing through art in your community. We need people like you! Thank you. 

Resources 

  • The Dinner Party
    A platform for grieving 20- and 30-somethings to find peer communities and build lasting relationships.
  • Reimagine
    Reimagine hosts festivals and experiences that bring creativity, connection, and essential conversation to communities around the world.
  • 3 Wishes Project
    A palliative care initiative that seeks to improve the end-of-life experience for all by  implementing final wishes for patients who are dying imminently.
  • Storyworth
    A company that offers a way for people to collect their life story in a hardbound book to share with family and friends.