Daddy & Papa

Through The Filmmaker's Own Story, the Film Explores the Growing Number of Gay Men Who Are Choosing to Become Parents

DADDY & PAPA Airs Nationally on Independent Lens June 3, 2003, at 10pm on PBS

For Immediate Release 

Mary Lugo, 770/623-8190;
Cara White, 843/881-1480;
Nancy Fishman, ITVS, 415/356-8383, x226; 

(San Francisco, CA)—Johnny Symons's DADDY & PAPA, which played to great acclaim at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, is a warm and heartfelt documentary that explores the personal, cultural and political ramifications of the growing number of gay men who are making a decision that is at once traditional and revolutionary: to become dads. Taking us inside four gay male families, DADDY & PAPA explores the many unique issues that these families face: the ambiguous place of interracial families in America; the wonder and precariousness of surrogacy and adoption; the complexities of marriage and divorce within the gay community; and the legality of gay parenthood. DADDY & PAPA also explores the many ways that these families resemble others as the dads take on the daily joys and struggles of raising healthy and happy children. DADDY & PAPA will air nationally on PBS on June 3, 2003, at 10pm (check local listings).

Gay men become parents through various routes—including independent adoptions, surrogacy situations, and co-parenting arrangements with women. But an increasing number are choosing to adopt through the foster care system, and several of these stories are highlighted in the film. Statistics report that over 500,000 children are currently in foster care and over 100,000 are awaiting adoption. The majority of these are children of color, who the system refers to as "hard to place.” Gay men are offering many of these children the chance to have permanent homes. In addition to the hard work of parenting, gay dads face many additional challenges: conservatives who regard them as the very antithesis of family; antipathy from parts of the gay community, where hard-won independence and sexual freedoms can often clash with the full-time demands of parenting; and discrimination from the law. In 2000, Utah and Mississippi joined Florida in banning gay adoption. And with similar legislation pending in other states, the attack on gay parental rights is steadily growing. 

DADDY & PAPA Director/Producer Johnny Symons and his partner William Rogers are a Bay Area interracial couple who adopt an African American baby named Zachary. When they first find Zachary, who is awaiting adoption, he is living with a devout Christian foster mother who is reluctant to let go of the child she has raised from birth. She does not believe in homosexuality and her friends plant all kinds of fears in her mind. But when she and her friends get to know Johnny and William, their minds are opened and changed. They quickly see that it is love that will make this family. 

Kelly Wallace is a 38-year-old single white gay man living in San Francisco's Castro district. We follow his process of adopting two brothers, ages two and three, from foster care. As Kelly and his sons struggle to adjust to their radically changed lives, we see firsthand the challenges of single parenting, the difficulties of raising hard-to-place children and the isolation of being a family in a virtually childless neighborhood. The story of Fanny Ballantine-Himberg, a precocious nine-year-old, starts with the generous act of a surrogate mother. The film recounts how her fathers Philip Himberg and Jim Ballantine arranged with a friend to bear their child. A decade later, they have split up, and each has a new partner. Their daughter's biggest problem now is not that her fathers are gay, but that they are divorced. 

Since his homeless father abandoned him five years ago, eight-year old Oscar Williams has been raised by Doug Houghton, a nurse who cared for him when he was hospitalized and who subsequently became his legal guardian. Florida law categorically denies Doug, a gay man, the right to formally adopt Oscar. At the invitation of the ACLU, he joins a lawsuit to sue the state and legally establish his parental rights. Through interviews, on-location shooting around the country, archival footage and photos and the personal narrative of the filmmaker's own journey to fatherhood, including the adoption of his second child, the film provides a rare inside view of this growing phenomenon. From the playground to the courtroom, DADDY & PAPA uncovers the struggles, challenges and triumphs of gay fathers and their children—bringing to light a new kind of American family. For more information, go to 

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DADDY & PAPA Credits 
Director/Producer/Writer: Johnny Symons
Co-Producer: Lindsay Sablosky
Editor: Kim Roberts
Principal Cinematography: Gail Huddleson, Johnny Symons, Andy Abrahams Wilson
Original Score: Janice Giteck 

Featured Interviewees: 
Kelly Wallace is the executive director of Marin AIDS Project in San Rafael, California. He has been involved in AIDS-related work and gay community activism for over a decade. A native of Walnut Creek, California, Kelly joined the Peace Corps in 1984 and has worked and studied in Guatemala, England and Italy, and traveled in Ecuador and throughout Eastern and Western Europe. In the early fall of 1997 he started investigating the possibility of starting a family as a single dad. A little over one year later he became the father of Jesse and Ray, then two and three years old. They are brothers who had been living in separate foster homes their entire lives. Kelly lives in San Francisco's Castro district, a predominantly gay neighborhood, with his two sons and their dog and goldfish. 

Nancy Wallace, Kelly's mother, is a devout Catholic who has six children and more than 10 grandchildren. She and her husband Ed live in Walnut Creek and regularly spend time with their extensive extended family. 

Doug Houghton is a nurse practitioner at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida. He presently works in trauma intensive care, but in 1995 was director of a pediatric outpatient clinic, where he met his son Oscar. An accomplished pianist and avid music lover, Doug has been Oscar's legal guardian and "soccer dad” for seven years. He is currently a plaintiff, together with the American Civil Liberties Union, in a suit against the state of Florida to overturn the ban on gay adoption. He and the other plaintiffs in the case were recently chosen to receive the Maurice Rosen Act of Courage award by the Miami chapter of the ACLU for their public efforts in support of the case. 

Jim and Fannie Williams, Oscar's biological grandparents, have four children and several grandchildren. They live in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and are currently raising Oscar's twin brothers. 

Steven Kozlowski is a Miami-based attorney in the American Civil Liberties Union's suit against the state of Florida to reverse the 25-year-old ban on gay adoption. 

Philip Himberg has worked as a theater director and producer for more than 20 years and is currently artistic director of the Sundance Institute's Theatre Program. He was born and raised outside New Haven, Connecticut, where as a teenager he met and dated Cathy Smith, his daughter Fanny's birth mother. Nearly 25 years later, Cathy offered to act as a surrogate for Philip and his then partner, Jim Ballantine. In 1991, Philip became a father. 

Jim Ballantine is a veteran of the Southern California entertainment industry and is currently working as an animation producer in Los Angeles. He and his ex-partner Philip Himberg spent 13 years together and continue to co-parent their daughter Fanny. Cathy Smith, Fanny's biological mother, went to high school with Philip Himberg and has known Jim Ballantine since he and Philip met in 1984. She sees her daughter about four times a year, both in California where Fanny lives and at her own home in Falmouth, Massachusetts. She has a 21-year-old son and manages an art cinema on Cape Cod. 

William Rogers, Director. is Johnny Symons's partner of nine years. He is director of Policy, Administration, and Program Development for the City of Berkeley Public Health Department. He grew up in a biracial family in Los Angeles and moved to the Bay Area in 1987. Rogers has a Master's degree in organizational development and human resources from the University of San Francisco and is the father of Zachary (now 3) and his one-year-old brother Kenyon. 

Sharon Anderson is a social worker and adoption specialist working in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has extensive experience with gay adoption. 

Dora Dean Bradley, Zachary's foster mother, has cared for six different children during her eight years as a registered foster parent. She is an active member of the Mingleton Temple of God in Christ Church in Oakland, California, and lives in Berkeley near her daughter and granddaughter. 

Helen Williams, Dora Bradley's friend, was Dora's confidant during what proved to be a difficult decision-making process surrounding Zachary's adoption by two gay men. She is an evangelist and has attended Gethsemane Church of God in Christ in Richmond, California for 17 years. 

Susie Symons, Johnny's mother, lives in Farmington Hills, Michigan. In the years since her son came out to her, she has become a strong advocate for gay issues and a large part of her private psychology practice now consists of gay and lesbian clients. 

Ginnie Potsubay, Johnny's maternal grandmother, lived in South Hadley, Massachusetts, with her husband Dr. Sam Potsubay, until her death in September, 2002. Before she retired, she worked as the associate director of admissions at Hampshire College. Johnny's sons, Zachary and Kenyon, were her only great-grandchildren. 

Official Selection, 2002 Sundance Film Festival
Best First Person Documentary, 2002 San Francisco International Film Festival
Best Documentary, Audience Award, 2002 Florida Film Festival
Best Documentary, Audience Award, 2002 Portland Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Best Documentary, Audience Award, 2002 Rochester Gay and Lesbian Film Festival
Best Documentary, Audience Award First Runner Up, 2002 Seattle International Film Festival
Favorite Documentary/Overall Favorite, 2002 Orinda Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2002 Miami Gay And Lesbian Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2002 North Carolina Gay And Lesbian Film Festival
Best Documentary, 2002 Connecticut Gay And Lesbian Film Festival
Best Film Runner Up, 2002 Cleveland International Film Festival
Breaking The Mold Award, 2002 Newport Film Festival
Documentary Most Likely to Change the World, 2002 Detroit Docs Film Festival 

About The Filmmaker 
Johnny Symons (Producer/Director/Writer) is an award-winning documentary film and videomaker based in Oakland, California. He is the co-producer of the Academy Award-nominated Long Night's Journey Into Day (2000), a feature documentary about South Africa's search for truth and reconciliation, winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival and the Peace Film Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Symons has a 10-year history of creating films on gay culture, including Beauty Before Age (1997), an exploration of the fear of growing older in the gay male community, which received an NEMN Gold Apple; Shaving The Castro (1995), a portrait of a 70-year-old Castro Street barber shop, which aired nationally on public television; and Out In Africa (1994), an exploration of black African gay life, which was named Best Documentary at the Turin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Symons has a Master's degree in documentary film and video production from Stanford University, where he currently works as a lecturer. He is the father of two sons, Zachary (3) and Kenyon (1). 

About Independent Lens 
Independent Lens is a groundbreaking weekly primetime PBS series that airs on Tuesday nights at 10pm and presents American and international documentaries and a limited number of dramas. Each week Independent Lens bursts onto the screen and presents a unique individual, community or moment in history to bring viewers gripping stories that inspire, engage, provoke and delight. From pioneering women surfers to brilliant composers to brave resistance fighters, Independent Lens introduces people whose stories are unforgettable. Independent Lens is for curious viewers of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds; all that's required is a TV and an inquiring mind. The Executive Producer of Independent Lens is Sally Jo Fifer, ITVS Executive Director. Independent Lens is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), with additional funding provided by PBS. 

About ITVS 
Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by the vision of media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. Contact ITVS at or visit ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Posted on January 17, 2003