May 24, 2011 \ Geoff Birmingham
Two documentaries about really bad fathers

pablo escobarSome parents do know how to damage their kids, and Monika Hertwig and Sebastian Marroquin are sad examples.  Both were children of fathers who were not ideal role models, to put it lightly.  Monika’s father, Amon Goeth, was the sadistic commander of a German death camp during World War II.  Sebastian’s father was Pablo Escobar, the ruthless head of the Medellin drug cartel during the 80s and early 90s.

Though completely innocent of their fathers’ very bad behavior, Monika and Sebastian struggle with the deep feelings of guilt they have as the children of Goeth and Escobar.  Their stories are the subject of two very good documentaries – Inheritance (Monika) and Sins of My Father (Sebastian).

Schindlers ListThe two films have a lot in common and lead to similar questions: What is it like to belong to a family in which the father is a professional killer?  How did the fathers become so evil?  How do the wives justify their husbands’ evil to their children and to themselves?  How did Monika and Sebastian manage to escape the violence, rather than become perpetrators as well?

It’s also interesting to witness the similar ways in which Sebastian and Monika deal with their guilt – both seek out their fathers’ victims.  Monika reaches out to a woman who was a domestic slave in her father’s home and who witnessed the atrocities that Goeth committed in the camp.  Sebastian connects with the sons of two politicians who confronted Escobar and were assassinated for their efforts.

The meetings with the victims in each of the films have a different tone and outcome, which is interesting to compare.  But even with those differences, the larger point of each film is the same – that humans can inflict great suffering on each other, that our first reaction is to respond to violence with violence, but that healing and forgiveness can still happen (in varying degrees) despite the terrible crimes we commit on one another.