Our Father, a new documentary streaming on Netflix, shares the terrifying story of a fertility doctor impregnating women with his sperm without their consent. As the many offspring of Dr. Donald Cline find out about their long-lost siblings, the unnerving truth spills out more and more along the way. The documentary evokes a wide range of emotions amongst viewers as it explores a half-horror, half-emotional victim narrative.
It all started with one determined woman, Jacoba Ballard, who was interested in finding her family ancestry. She took a 23andme test and discovered the shocking, complex reality of having several undocumented siblings. After doing some incredible investigative work, she discovers that they share the same biological father, Dr. Cline. They found out he inseminated their mothers with his own specimen rather than the one that the mother consented to use. What's even worse is that Cline's sample shouldn't have been used, even with consent, because he has several underlying health conditions.
This horrifying, true story is an interesting yet infuriating watch. It gets extremely deep, revealing a lot about Dr. Cline and his past. Naturally, Cline is the story's focal point, but the victims also get some well-deserved recognition, though they need a bit more.
The doctor's actions were sickening and unjust, yet he was not fully convicted in a court of law. When taken to court by the dozens of siblings, he was only given an insignificant punishment. It's fair to say that this documentary does not have a happy ending, nor will it probably ever have one, making this story more haunting and infuriating.
The siblings do receive some warranted justice after pushing for a bill to be passed, illegalizing illicit donor insemination in Indiana. It's a small step, but definitely an important one. Releasing the documentary also helps raise a significant amount of awareness, hopefully pushing more legislation to be made on this issue.
Despite the positive recognition the documentary creates, it has a few oddities. The film gives off a horror vibe while sharing a horrific and true story. Prolific horror movie producer Jason Blum is even a contributing producer on the documentary, furthering its horror prototype. With chilling sound effects and daunting editing, it could very much turn into an actual horror film at any moment in the documentary. Though in a way, it harms the authenticity of the documentary, as it should have been aimed more toward the trauma of the victims rather than spending most of its time showcasing Dr. Cline as a horror villain.
There are many reenactments in the film, which add even more horror elements to the documentary and create a great deal of convincing. The actor cast to portray Dr. Cline is scarily similar to the doctor himself. It's debatable whether or not the reenactments in it are necessary, especially since several reenactments were reviving some traumatic experiences for the victims. With the reenactments featuring the real siblings with the fake doctor, it was probably difficult for the siblings to have to go through those moments again, thus questioning if these reenactments were necessary.
Another oddity in the documentary is that it takes a daring approach and theorizes the reasons why Dr. Cline was doing his own inseminations. The documentary establishes that his religious beliefs were most likely his motive for his horrendous actions. One of the theories as to why he did it was because he was in a cult called "Quiverfull." Within this Christian cult, their ideology is to "be fruitful and multiply", by having as many children as possible. As it dives further into these theories, his actions become even more disgusting than they already are.
In a way, it seems that the dehumanization of Dr. Cline undermines the siblings' side. The siblings went through a devastating occurrence that shocked their world, but the documentary needed more of their stories. If more victims were willing to share their story, it would have a greater impact on audiences, redirecting the documentary's importance to their stories, rather than Dr. Cline's.
Anyone who watches the documentary is expected to be extremely unsettled by Cline's actions and be provoked by the sibling's narrative. This ethical insemination issue is not discussed enough in the legal system, especially since more siblings are being found and many other fertility doctors have been caught doing the same thing as Dr. Cline. Despite a few trivial flaws, the documentary raises awareness of a horrifying issue. Plus, it comes out at an appropriate time when reproductive rights are at the forefront of the country's issues, making the harrowing story more essential now than ever.