If he weren't Pam Walton's father, she wouldn't want to know him.
An author and organizer for the religious right, Rus Walton has refused contact with his daughter for several decades, because of her sinful, lesbian lifestyle. Through researching the film, she finds her father's group advocates, among other things, the death penalty for practicing homosexuals.
Despite the political differences which forced them apart, Pam Walton feels incomplete knowing her father is alive somewhere, and that he will someday die without her ever seeing him again.
So begins "Family Values," the documentary by filmmaker Pam Walton, who's best known for her educational "Gay Youth" video. (For more information on that film, see this month's Profile in Courage.)
Walton's film looks at her lesbian "family," and how her friends, unlike Walton, have rich family lives beyond that kinship. Walton's sister also wants to reconcile with her father, also with no luck.
The film takes a sharp turn from interviews with people who knew Walton's father during an interview with her brother. While taping, her father calls her brother, the only sibling with whom he's kept in contact.
Walton addresses the camera, about how scared she is to talk, but several minutes later, she is talking to her father on the phone, with her camera rolling. Several weeks later, a meeting is arranged, with the provision that no one discusses "their sex lives." She agrees, and flies with her partner, sister and niece to meet him across the country at his home.
No video was shot of the meeting between the family reunion, in order to make it less confrontational. Walton, of course, says she eventually did talk to him about gay and lesbian issues, and after the meeting she does come to a sense of peace with him. Until a journalist profiling Walton and her video calls him for a reaction, and their communication is once again severed.
The aptly-named film shows the flip side of the people who champion "the family" publicly for their own financial gains -- people who have gotten so wrapped up in their own cause that their actual families have to take the back burner.
If her father publicly accepted her, Walton says he would be kicked out of the group for which he works.
Doesn't sound like a pro-family group to me.
Both "Family Values" and "Gay Youth" can be ordered directly through Walton for $60 plus $6 shipping. Walton said that anyone on a limited budget can e-mail her and she'll try and negotiate a fair price. She can be reached at pwalton@leland.Stanford.EDU.
"Family Values" will be screening at Out on the Screen, the L.A. Gay Festival, July 11-21; the SF Gay/Lesbian Festival, June 22-30. And at the Montreal International Film Festival, from June 6-16.