DOXA 2013: Maybe bring a barf bag to Father Figures

Minutes into  Father Figures, April Butler’s camera swoops into a close-up of a severed pig’s head sitting on a market stall in the Philippines. It’s a silent but visceral expression of the rage that seethes beneath the film. Later, Butler’s anger and disgust explodes all over the screen as she tries to deal with the reality of her own father’s life. It’s toe-curling stuff: Dale is a 73-year-old Kamloops man determined to marry his 23-year-old Philippine Internet crumpet, Girlie (yes, Girlie). April (co-directing with Gillian Hrankowski) gamely tries to understand the relationship, such as it is, and even flip-flops in her sympathies after she travels to her future stepmom’s hometown, meets the poverty-stricken family, and watches as Dale has his every need catered to.

What she also discovers—besides a broader community of conscience-free white men happy to exploit the economic and social advantages they were handed at birth—is that Dale has been lying to Girlie about his “wealth”, and to everybody else about… Well, you need to see the film to find out, but maybe bring along a barf bag.

Butler breaks pretty much every rule as her revulsion mounts, turning Father Figures from a documentary into an excruciating act of visual diary (which is a recommendation, in case it’s not clear.) It’s to Dale’s credit, I suppose, that he allows his middle-aged daughter, teenage child in tow, to capture all his guilty dissembling on camera. But still—out of a reasonably broad vocabulary, the best word I can muster to describe all this is ick.

Father Figures screens on Saturday (May 11) at Vancity Theatre at 7:15 p.m.



A. MacInnis

May 11, 2013 at 8:50pm

Eep. Positive review or not, this is one film I won't be watching anytime soon!

Mike Moore

May 12, 2013 at 6:52pm

Seems better subject matters should have been done, this is a vendetta it appears. Daughter mad that she sees her inheritances leaving her grasps.


May 18, 2013 at 5:07am

This a lot of crap.
A daughter is trying to put down the father what kind of daughter are you? I'm not watching this! Badluck to you B*tchy daughter.


Aug 20, 2013 at 6:28pm

Jean, if you actually saw the movie, you would realize that what Dale does is completely indefensible.

Same to Mike Moore - if you actually saw the movie, you would know how ridiculous your statement is.

How about you both get your facts straight before opening your mouths and revealing your ignorance?


Oct 9, 2013 at 3:30pm

Just watched it.
By the evidence shown, it looks like Dale might have a few questions from the RCMP, and probably a new home.. with bars, if he ever decides to come back to Canada.


Mar 27, 2014 at 10:14am

I disagree that this was a daughter's vendetta. It is a carefully crafted
documentary which takes us on a journey of life as it really is.
My first thoughts while watching it was that Girlie knows exactly what she is
doing and the benefits of an older man with money (she thinks). Also what has to be taken into account are Girlie's family who know how old she really is.
If this was my Father, I would have felt the same as April, the daughter.
There are things that no matter which angle you look at it from, it
doesn't make things right.
I was captivated from the beginning. Well worth watching.


Mar 27, 2014 at 1:44pm

I dont see what's so terribly wrong with the relationship even though it's far from what would be considered normal. It's not like anyone's forced into anything, both father and 'Girlie' seem perfectly content with the situation.

What strikes me as being wrong is the incredibly selfrightious, judgemental filmmaker/daughter who ruins her relationship with her father in the process. I tend to agree with her father that's she seems to be 'very sick'.


Mar 27, 2014 at 4:46pm

Girlie is not 23 at the time the film is made; it is discovered during the filming that she is 17. Dale started sleeping with her when she was 16. I can't imagine what it is like for a 16-year-old girl to sleep with a 73-year-old man. Yuck. I do remember that her father cried when he signed the marriage certificate (they had to get married in Hong Kong because their marriage would not be legal in the Philippines, because of Girlie's age). Given that she's essentially being scarified for her family, I do hope, for Girlie's sake, that she's able to stick this out long enough to get status in Canada.There are new, more stringent rules around marriages to non-Canadians, and this could throw a real wrench in the works.

W D Bessant

Mar 31, 2014 at 8:03pm

A particularly crappy film, turned into a swearing tirade at the end by the daughter and film maker. She mentioned at the outset that she had never been close to her father, and all I can say is fortunately for him. A waste of time to watch, apart from an insight into Phillipino thinking and ways of life.


Apr 11, 2014 at 12:33pm

The man fooled the girl, the girl fooled the man... He isn't a millionaire and she isn't 26, now they have to live with the truth... However, it's obvious that Dale was looking for a young woman from start, still maybe he didn't really know her real age... What will her parents say? They probably didn't know that Dale is not a millionaire before their daughter got married... Poor people... I wish them all good luck and I hope Dale will be happy the last years of his life. Maybe his daughter will forgive him before he dies. but I'm not so sure about that.