Single mothers who must work multiple jobs to support their families and who have no provisions from employers or government assistance for day care are left with few options. Loira Limbal’s immersive and affecting observational documentary, “Through the Night,” shows an option offered by ordinary people who want to serve their community.
Deloris “Nunu” Hogan and her husband, Patrick, a Black couple living in New Rochelle, N.Y., founded Dee’s Tots, a 24-hour day care center, 22 years ago. Back then a friend had to stay at the hospital overnight and Deloris agreed to mind her child. After doing this, Deloris, who has children of her own, thought day care was a job she could do to earn a little income and to help parents in the neighborhood, who are mostly Black and Hispanic single working mothers. And so Dee’s Tots was born.
Offering 24-hour day care and a loving, safe, educational, and fun environment, the business took off, allowing the Hogans to buy a house and expand their operation. Now they are beloved leaders in the community and Dee’s Tots is an essential resource.
Limbal observes the day-to-day operation of the center — mothers working the day shift dropping off their kids in the morning while those working the night shift pick up their children. The children learn arithmetic and writing, play games, and are counseled on virtues such as politeness, respect, caring, and responsibility. They all love Deloris and the more aloof but whimsical Patrick as he goes over business matters on his laptop. It is not surprising that some of the children see Deloris as their second mother; one child bursts into tears as she is dressed to go home.
Marisol Valencia, a single mother, is one of Dee’s Tots’ clients. She works seven days a week at three jobs, none of which allows her enough hours to collect benefits such as health insurance. Her 10-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter have grown up at the center. For her daughter it is a kind of asylum from the real world. Perhaps pondering her mother’s hard life, she says, “I don’t want to grow up. I don’t want to pay the rent and the bills and everything. I want to be a kid all the time.”
As for Deloris, she’d probably like to continue for another 22 years but the work takes its toll. She regrets that she has been depriving her own children of attention while caring for her charges. The constant lifting and physical labor have also worn her down. The doctor treating a recurrent pain in her arm says she will eventually need an operation. But there’s no way she can take a break to do so, she says. Pondering the dire situations of her clients, the unlikelihood of any government assistance, and her own commitment, she says, “This is the way the world is set up at this time.”
“Through the Night” can be streamed via the Coolidge Corner Theatre’s Virtual Screening Room starting Jan. 15. A virtual Q&A with Loira Limbal, the Hogans, and a representative of the local nonprofit Neighborhood Villages can be streamed via the Coolidge Jan. 18 at 8 p.m. Go to coolidge.org/films/through-night.
For 35 years, from 1984 to 2019, Lynne Sachs filmed her father, and she didn’t lack for fascinating material. A latter-day entrepreneurial hippie, Ira Sachs was liberal in his politics and in his passions — most consequentially his sex drive, which resulted in fathering nine children with six different wives and mistresses.
Sachs pares her vast trove of footage shot in a variety of formats (8mm and 16mm film, videotape, and digital images) down to 74 minutes in her cubist and kaleidoscopic “Film About a Father Who.” Here she comes to grips with a man whom she loves but who also bewilders her. She interviews her siblings, her mother, and three of the women who bore his children. They share memories and speculate about the reasons for his negligence and destructive appetites. They describe a man whose kindness and charisma were overshadowed by a lack of empathy and responsibility — in short ,a narcissist but of the non-malignant variety.
One of the dominant figures in Ira’s life and in the film is his mother, Maw-maw, who constantly scolds him for his promiscuity and extravagance. “I can’t stand that way of life,” she says. “He has a wife, he has a mistress, he has any woman that he sees. I have to accept it as if my child has a handicap, as if he was born an idiot.”
Sachs nonetheless remains deferential to his mother and tries to keep his excesses a secret. Knowing she would disapprove of him buying two Cadillacs, he has them both painted red so she can’t tell the difference. When she tells him to get a vasectomy and threatens to cut him out of her will if he has any more children, he hides those born afterward from her. One of those concealed says that it hurt to find out that the reason he didn’t let her ever see her grandmother was because of money.
Reminiscent of local filmmaker Lucia Small’s outstanding “My Father the Genius” (2002) and influenced by feminist filmmaker Yvonne Rainer’s “Film About a Woman Who . . .” (1974), Sachs’s film dispenses with chronology and intercuts fragments from different periods, creating an impressionistic collage grounded by the interviews and her own detached, eloquent voice-over commentary. The film is not so much about her father, but his inescapable impact on his far-flung family, forever shaping the lives of those whose lives barely make an impression on his.
“Film About a Father Who” can be streamed via the Brattle Theatre’s Virtual Screening Room beginning Jan. 22. Go to www.brattlefilm.org.
Peter Keough can be reached at email@example.com.