Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Brian Tillman, Donnie Smith

Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg 

Earlier this year Rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith won an Oscar for co-writing the song “Glory” with Common and John Legend for 2014’s Selma. Back in 2005 he won a Grammy for co-writing “Jesus Walks” with Kanye West, and back in 1997 he beat Eminem in at a Rap battle at the Scribble Jam.  The talented writer and musician has spent most of his time behind the scenes while his colleagues have become household names.  

These days Che lives a modest life in Chicago with his wife Donnie and their son Solomon while working as a radio talk show host and working with troubled youth in the community.  Most of the money he made as an artist has been spent and he speaks candidly about losing homes, cars, and the need for record labels to hire financial advisers for young rappers.   

Directed by Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, "In My Father's House" finds Che purchasing and moving into the old home that he grew up in, the same home that his father, Brian Tillman, left after abandoning Che at the age of 12.  Now in his mid-30’s, the rapper decides to reconnect and search for his father, and after making a few phone calls he discovers that his dad is homeless and living in a shelter not very far away.  

What transpires next is a series of meetings between father and son that start with a hot meal and a discussion about the past.  Che keeps his guard up while Brian attempts to takes responsibility for walking out on his family, but later in the film we learn that even Che seems to have repeated some of his father’s mistakes.  After advancing the importance of a father being there for his child, we find out that Che is behind on his child support payments to a former girlfriend and now insists on a paternity test.    

The documentary works on the level of honesty and realism.  Che and Brian speak candidly about their faults and struggles and its uplifting to see them reconcile and strive for a healthy relationship, it also helps that everyone in the film is likable.  "In My Father's House" starts by stating that 60% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes and 71% are high school dropouts, by the time the films draws to a conclusion a strong case has been made for men to accept responsibility as a parent in order to make a difference in a child’s life.

(3 stars) 

Now playing at AMC Studio 30 (Houston)