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‘Father Unknown’

Jessica Cabe
jcabe@postindependent.com
Longtime Rifle Middle School teacher Urban Quint, left, and son David Quint share a moment outside the New Ute Events Center, where David’s film “Father Unknown” will be screened at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m Sunday.
Courtesy photo |

If YOU GO...

What: ‘Father Unknown’ screening

When: 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. on Sunday

Where: New Ute Events Center

How Much: $12, tickets must be purchased online in advance

When Rifle native David Quint was growing up, his father, Urban Quint, was a beloved science teacher at Rifle Middle School. But at home, David was subjected to a different version of Urban.

“This is hard for people in Rifle to imagine because he was a beloved teacher in Rifle,” David said. “But at home, he would sometimes just not respond when I would ask him a question or try and talk to him. There was this emptiness in him. And he had an extremely short temper with me. He would oscillate between being very angry and kind of hard and being distant and silent. And as time went on, it just got worse.”

At its root, the problem was that Urban never knew his father. He was an orphan in Switzerland, and even after he reconnected with his mother, he never found out his father’s name, let alone met him.

So David and Urban traveled to Switzerland to try to connect the dots of Urban’s past, find out who his father was and, in the process, form a real father-son relationship with one another.

David captured their journey on film — or, in most cases, on his iPhone — and created a documentary called “Father Unknown.” The movie will screen at the New Ute Events Center in Rifle at 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets are $12 and must be purchased online in advance.

“Father Unknown” first screened at the Starz Denver Film Festival last November. The film sold out two screenings and almost a third.

“The response was pretty incredible — kind of overwhelming, actually,” David said. “When people responded the way they did and said it connected to their own lives, it was pretty overwhelming for all of us.”

It’s especially surreal for David to share “Father Unknown” because the film and the story it tells were never planned. At first, David pitched the idea of traveling to Switzerland as a means for meeting up with an old friend of Urban’s from the orphanage.

“Once there was another living, breathing person who’d been there, I said, ‘We gotta go,’ and my dad said, ‘Okay,’” David said. “My dad was hesitant to talk about the impact of what had happened in his childhood and the subsequent impact it had had on our relationship. I don’t think he was concerned about going to Switzerland in and of itself, but I don’t think he realized I’d be driving so hard toward, ‘What happened?’”

During the trip, David didn’t even know he was making a film. He captured moments with no clear idea of narrative and with no belief that the journey would even warrant retelling.

The result is an intimate, home movie-style look into both his and Urban’s internal journey to understanding themselves and one another.

Once they did return from Switzerland, and David realized he’d captured moments of a pretty incredible story, he knew he wanted to make a movie. The question was: With the material he had, could he?

“When you know you’re making a film, you’re thinking about what you’re doing,” David said. “But in this case, I didn’t know what the story was, and I didn’t know what anything meant at the time. It’s like trying to build a house, and you don’t have all the materials you need because you didn’t know you were building a house. You have to figure out how to build a house out of the pile of stuff you have. You can’t order anything more.”

Aside from the technical challenges of putting the film together, David said the real difficulty came in realizing just how much he had been affected by his father’s coldness toward him.

“I thought it was a story about my dad’s childhood, but it really is a story about my own empty feeling that had been carried forward because of our relationship,” David said. “That really is a very painful realization to come to. That took years, and it was not what I expected to happen. The story is far more personal to me than I had ever imagined.”

But as the saying goes, things have to get worse before they can get better, and acknowledging that something was wrong with their relationship was the first step to mending it. Now, after recognizing their wounds and treating them, David and Urban have the father-son relationship they never knew how to have before.

“It’s completely transformed our relationship with one another, and my dad and I talk all the time now,” David said. “This absolutely has drawn us all closer together. It’s a strange thing to say, but I feel like I’ve gotten to know him.”


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