Pop & Me, the March entry in the KC Jubilee's Indy Film Showcase, is an extraordinary documentary. Father and son Roe, who are scheduled to attend the screening Thursday, March 21, say their relationship has improved since the film was completed. Throughout the movie, the friction between them keeps working against their obvious love for each other.
Starting in Los Angeles, the 190-day trip was an attempt to recapture the bliss of the Roe family's earlier adventure while asking fathers and sons in various cities about their own relationships. These moving interviews occur in places as diverse as Cairo, Budapest, Vietnam, South Africa and Australia.
But halfway through the trip, Chris finds out that he was his dad's third choice to accompany him. The two other sons, who catch up with them in Prague and Vietnam, have less complicated relationships with their father.
As Richard recalls, the tension continued when it came to deciding how the film should be structured. "Chris -- and keep in mind this is my spin, my interpretation -- wanted the film to be about the struggle of a young man to become an adult. I wanted it to be more about universal themes."
For his part, Chris worried that the other father-son interviews "would be either dead boring or cheesy melodrama." But those accounts end up mirroring the story of Richard and Chris -- which Richard calls "pure luck."
"We had -- my pop and me -- a lot of problems getting the film off the ground in the editing," Chris says. "We were in therapy at one point."
"Do we still fight about control? Yes," Richard adds. "But making the film has opened the door for us to communicate more."
Chris Roe, who had never made a film, is credited as director and co-photographer; Richard is the movie's producer. "We had a thirty-year-old wind-up camera that could only shoot 25 seconds at a time and a 4-pound Sony digital camera -- that was it," Richard says. Chris shot 75 of the film's 90 minutes. (Erik Arneson recorded the scenes with both men.) Speaking like any proud father, Richard remembers that, after one screening, noted cinematographer Lazlo Kovaks approached him in tears. "He said it was one of the most beautifully shot films he'd ever seen."