Rel Dowdell is a screenwriter, film director and producer, as well as an English/screenwriting professor. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he received his B.A. in English magna cum laude from Fisk University and an M.A. in Film and Screenwriting with highest distinction from Boston University.
Rel's first feature film, Train Ride, garnered widespread critical acclaim. Produced with independent financing, the movie was acquired by Sony Pictures in 2005 and enjoyed tremendous financial success. In addition, the film featured the final performance of the late Esther "Florida" Rolle. Rel's second feature, Changing the Game, is a drama that was shot in Philadelphia over the course of a summer. The film stars Sean Riggs, Irma P. Hall, Dennis L.A. White and Mari White, with special appearances by Sticky Fingaz and Tony Todd. The picture was cited by FilmFresh.com as one of the top three African-American films of 2012. Here, Rel discusses his third full-length feature, a documentary examining the Child Support System entitled Where's Daddy?
Kam Williams (KW): [Kam Williams, J.D. is a syndicated film and book critic based in Princeton, New Jersey] Hi Rel, thanks for the interview.
Rel Dowdell (RD): Always an honor, Kam. This was an interview I was really looking forward to doing.
KW: I loved Where's Daddy? What interested you in the subject of child support?
RD: I was simply tired of seeing how negatively African-American fathers were depicted in the media. Shows like "The Maury Povich Show" truly cast a disparaging light on African-American fathers who always look completely dysfunctional in relationships with African-American women. And, in addition, they look like they are always embracing the aspect of not being a responsible father, like it's the last thing on their minds. They look scared to death to be a father and running from fatherhood. Moreover, they have hatred for the child because the child was with a woman they no longer have an affinity for. Those are very damaging and malignant images in society today. One should never embellish stereotypes that are crippling. Therefore, I wanted this film to show that there are a myriad of African-American fathers out there who really want to be active and loving fathers to their children, but have been faced with some arduous circumstances, some seen, and some unforeseen, that have hindered them from doing so. I wanted to give African-American fathers a voice that they...