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Daddy & Papa (comparative review with Dads Wanted)

Distributed by New Day Films,190 Route 17M, P.O. Box 1084, Harriman, NY 10926; 888-367-9154 or 845-774-7051
Produced by Johnny Symons
Directed by Johnny Symons
VHS, color, 57 min.
College - Adult
Gay and Lesbian Studies, Parenting, Adoption

Reviewed by Barb Bergman, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   

Produced by Jude Callen
Directed by Justin Pemberton
Distributed by Filmakers Library, 124 East 40th Street, New York, NY 10016; 202-808-4980
VHS   color, 43 min.
Rating: Recommended
Audience Level:College - Adult

In Daddy & Papa, director Johnny Symons documents his journey - as a gay man - towards fatherhood.

Symons starts by commenting on how, after being involved in gay rights activism, ironically his “most revolutionary act was the most traditional of all - raising a child.” We follow Johnny and his partner William through their experience of deciding they want a child, the process of adoption, and becoming new parents.

The stories of three other families are interwoven with Symons’ experiences.

Kelly, a single gay man, adopted two brothers who were about to be separated. Fannie is a 9-year-old bothered more about her dads’ divorce than that her parents are gay men. Doug wants to adopt 8-year-old Oscar, who has lived with him for several years, but is prevented by Florida law because he is gay.

Johnny talks about his initial hesitation about adopting a child. But he goes along with partner William’s strong desire to adopt. They describe the time consuming process of being certified as foster parents, which also qualifies them to adopt. After finding an infant boy that they wanted to meet, Johnny and William ran into an unexpected hurdle—the child’s foster mother was a fundamentalist Christian who is against homosexuality. Fortunately, she withdrew her objections after meeting them, and Johnny and William found that they had not only adopted a son - they had also acquired Zachary’s foster family as relatives.

Because William is bi-racial, they wanted an African-American or bi-racial child. As they discovered, these are exactly the type of children that gay men are adopting because the children are otherwise hard-to-place. The pros and cons of white parents raising children of color are discussed.

Kelly talks about the difficulties of being a single dad and of raising children in a primarily childless gay community. When taking Zachary to the park, Johnny observes that people assume the three of them are a straight dad with dad’s buddy hanging out with dad and child. At a suburban picnic for gay dads, Symons speculates whether they are mimicking straight parents or just showing the concern any parent shows for their children.

We also hear the opinions of the grandparents - Johnny’s mom who, having accepted her son’s homosexuality, is thrilled to see him raising a child. Oscar’s grandparents are pleased to have Doug raising him instead of their drug-addicted son.

The film touches on several “nature versus nurture” concerns that people raise about children raised by same sex parents - are children harmed by not having a mother? Should gay white men be raising African American children? What is the effect of sexual orientation on the children? In discussing these issues, Symons shows that many of the issues are simply those of parents wanting to raise their children well, and the fact that these parents are gay men is almost irrelevant. Many of the issues discussed could also be applied to single men or women who want to adopt.

Well made and thought provoking. Sure to generate a good class discussion. Highly recommended for college and adult collections.

Aired on PBS, June 2003. See website for class discussion guide and other resources.


  • Best Documentary, Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, 2002
  • Golden Gate Award, Best First Person Documentary, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2002.
  • Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival 2002
  • Best Documentary, Dallas Outtakes 2002
  • Best Documentary, Connecticut Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, 2002
  • Best Documentary University Of Oregon, Queer Film Festival, 2003
  • Audience Award For Best Documentary, Portland Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2002
  • Documentary Most Likely To Change The World, Detroit Docs Films Festival, 2002
  • Audience Award For Best Feature, Out At The Movies 2002, Potsdam, NY
  • Audience Award For Best Independent Documentary, 2002 Imageout/Rochester Gay And Lesbian Film Festival
  • Audience Award For Best Film
  • Audience Award For Best Documentary, Orinda Film Festival, 2002
  • Audience Award For Best Documentary, Florida Film Festival, 2002
  • Audience Award For Best Documentary, 1st Runner Up, Seattle Int'l Film Festival, 2002
  • Runner Up, Best Film, Cleveland International Film Festival 2002
  • Silver Certificate Of Merit, Prix Leonardo 2003, Parma, Italy
  • Emerging Film Award For Best Documentary, North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2002
  • Breaking The Mold Award, Newport Film Festival 2002

Like Daddy & Papa, Dads Wanted tells the story of homosexual men and women becoming parents. Originally produced for New Zealand television, Dads Wanted spends a year following three gay & lesbian families in New Zealand. In this film, all of the children are a biological child of one of the parents, as opposed to Daddy & Papa which dealt primarily with adoption.

Leigh is a lesbian single mother posting an ad under “Dads Wanted” for a gay man to father a child and become an active co-parent. Her former partner helps with child care for Leigh’s daughter, but indicates no desire to be a mother.

Glen has two boys that he fathered for a lesbian couple, where each of the women is biological mother to one of the children. Glen and his partner are active co-parents, seeing the boys frequently in a friendly joint custody arrangement. When one of the women decides to take a job elsewhere, the men make plans to follow in order to be close to the children.

Erin and her partner Theresa have twins born to Theresa. Erin is seeking legal guardianship of the infants, the closest she can come to being legally acknowledged as their parent.

Each of these stories in Dads Wanted describes how they went about finding a sperm donor and becoming pregnant.

Recommended for college and adult collections.

Both Daddy & Papa and Dads Wanted stress the importance of children having loving parents, not that they be part of a “traditional” family with mother, father, and 2.3 kids. Both films discuss the problems and concerns about children having same sex parents. Of the two films, Daddy & Papa covers a broader range of issues and is more engaging because it centers on a personal experience.