Culture

Gritty New Film Shows What Happens to Men Who Grow Up Without Fathers

Fathers matter.

If you could boil down the theme of Our American Stories’ latest movie release, The Streets Were My Father, to two words, that’s what they would be. Fathers matter

The Streets Were My Father traces the lives of three men — one black, two Hispanic — who lacked fathers in their lives. All three fell into the vortex of statistics involving children and especially boys when their fathers are not around.

  • 85% of youths in prison grew up without a father
  • 90% of homeless and runaways grew up without a father
  • 71% of high school dropouts lack a father in the home

And 70% of Americans believe fathers matter in a child’s life and absent fathers are our greatest social problem.

The three men in The Streets Were My Father grew up with no guidance, no structure, and no future. All three ended up being men of the streets, doing and dealing drugs, shooting people and getting shot in criminal violence, running from the police and disrespecting authority, living meaningless lives of self-destruction. They had no one around to tell them that what they were doing was wrong, and other things they could do were right. They were career criminals looking at hard time and short lives. 

That’s because the streets of inner-city Chicago, with its valueless nihilism and its violence and lack of respect for life, raised them. But all three transcended their circumstances and their crimes. The Streets Were My Father tells their stories. 

Executive Producer Lee Habeeb, a fellow alum of the Laura Ingraham Show, delivers a spare and stark production that first reminded me of Scared Straight! and The Cross and the Switchblade. The former takes the cameras inside prisons to see what it’s really like in the hopes of literally terrifying viewers away from a life of crime. The latter was a narrative that starred a young Eric Estrada as gangster-turned-Christian evangelist Nicki Cruz on his journey from street violence to faith. I’ve wondered off and on through the years why there was never another film like Switchblade made. Well, it has been, and Salem has made it. While this film is stylistically different from the other two, it similarly shows what attracted the men to lives of gang membership and violent crime, and where they found hope. 

The Streets Were My Father is gritty and spare, consisting entirely of interviews with the three men plus a few recreations of turning points in their lives, and a pastor who has been instrumental in their lives. These are not fluffy stories of petty criminals. The men were serving lengthy prison sentences, for serious crimes including assault and murder. But God reached them and changed them.

That might be a spoiler, but their journeys are powerful and worth the hour runtime of the film. Their outcomes break ruthless cycles through hope and redemption.

Fathers matter. What these men learned is that though their earthly fathers were gone, their Heavenly Father was there all along, ready to love and change them and turn their hard lives around. 

I have to say, on a personal note, how great it is that Lee Habeeb and Salem are getting into the movie business. Lee’s work building the Ingraham show and with his Our American Stories venture speaks for itself. He’s truly one of the good guys. 

“Politics is downstream of culture.” My friend, the late Andrew Breitbart, wasn’t a preacher but he preached that idea relentlessly and he was absolutely right. Movies are among the few touchstones we share across our culture now. Movies, books, music, and video games potentially reach millions and trigger conversations that reach hearts and minds. Yes, I know how trite that may sound, but it’s true. As Kruiser often notes on our VIP Gold chats, Salem is a thing we didn’t have on the right just a few years ago — a full-spectrum professional media company. SalemNOW and Salem movies are taking the next logical step to save our country. 

The Streets Were My Father releases on SalemNOW on Father’s Day, June 20. 

SalemNOW is owned by Salem Media Group, which also owns PJ Media. It’s available with no monthly fee on all streaming platforms.