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July 16, 2007

Family Secrets

Family Secrets

What would you do if you found out after your mother died that she had been unhappy during much of her marriage? Would you flip back through the pages of family photo albums, and look at all those smiles and wonder?

Filmmaker Doug Block found himself asking similar questions after his mother died, and he made a film about what he discovered. The documentary is called "51 Birch Street," named after the family address in Port Washington, Long Island.

Three months after his mother's death, Doug's father announced that he was marrying a former secretary, a woman named Kitty. The event shocked the entire family. Doug later came across his mother's diaries and was stunned to learn how frustrated she had been, both sexually and intellectually. Doug asked his father if he missed her. His father replied that he did not, that theirs wasn't a relationship of love; that it was "functional" instead.

Doug faced a number of difficult decisions in the making of the film: how much to reveal of his mother's diaries, how far to press his father on his relationship with his mother. One surprising consequence of making the documentary is that Doug is now closer to his father than he'd ever been while growing up.

  • Find out more about Doug's film
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