This film is about my father, Doc Humes. He was a lightening rod for some of the most interesting ideas of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, and I wanted to tell the story of his life, his mind, and the changing world he lived in.
Making the film has been a long labor of filial love. I loved my father and was proud of him, but he was no saint, and I don’t want to simplify the complexity of his character. I always found it hard to describe or explain him to my friends or acquaintances, and one of the reasons I made the film was so I could show, not tell.
I have personal and political motives. For one, I miss Doc’s outlook on the world, his dyed-in-the-wool hippie values, his staunch yet puckish anti-authoritarianism, his passionate faith in human goodness and possibility — a belief system he somehow maintained in the face of his own severe paranoia and anxiety. Especially now, in a time of serious abuses of power and constriction of idealism, I feel it is important to remember rebellious spirits like his.
I also wish to show, through this one particular case, what mental illness can do to a life and a person. How complicated and subtle it can be, and how impossible it is to separate the illness from the person. A person who continues to be real and impossible to dismiss, even if, in some ways, he is as mad as a hatter.
I started filming when Doc was dying of cancer in 1992. Too late, but I got a little. Ever since, I’ve been collecting bits of his legend, engaged in a quixotic attempt to put Humpty Dumpty back together. Or, to use a more fitting metaphor, trying to capture a cloud, an individual vaporous being before it entirely disappears.
Although Doc’s life was steeped in ideas and information about social change and politics, the film does not take the approach of a social issue documentary. Nor is it a typical personal documentary with an obvious emotional hook, as I do not approach it as my story. Young people will be especially interested; their hunger for knowledge about the Beat Generation and the politics of the 1960s is growing. I think the film will be important to many who are starved for media about the values they believe in, and who want to learn about people who tried to live those values.
Immy Humes, Producer/Director
Immy’s wide-ranging, distinctive, documentaries have received many honors, including an Academy Award nomination, screenings at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art and Film Forum cinema, and festivals from Amsterdam (IDFA) to Arkansas (Hot Springs). Her first independent film, A Little Vicious (1991), is a “superb ... splendid little comedy” that “shows how racism and class prejudice affect our perceptions of something as seemingly uncomplicated as a dog” (NY Post); the NY Times praised the “literary quality of this offbeat documentary,” which “pays rewarding attention to the little peculiarities of all involved.” Lizzie Borden Hash & Rehash (1997), about the celebrated “self-made orphan” and what people see in her story, features 28 “Bordenites”: scientists, poets, historians, doll designers — and three artists who actually adopted her name. The New York Press recommended its “elegant black humor.”
Immy has also produced many segments and documentary hours for Dateline NBC, National Geographic, A&E, CourtTV, USA, and Michael Moore’s TV Nation. She graduated from Harvard College with honors in Social Studies and started out at the Emmy-winning PBS series about the press, Inside Story with Hodding Carter, and series including Dining in France and Declarations for PBS, Lost & Found for FX, and the NEH-funded A Life Apart, about Hasidic Jewry.