“Sam Now” is a heartwarming and emotional documentary film that took over two decades to complete. Director Reed Harkness, who attended film school in his backyard and garage, started making short films starring his younger brother Sam at the age of 18. What began as a small project evolved into a 25-year-long journey of filmmaking that eventually resulted in the documentary “Sam Now.”
The film follows the story of two brothers, Sam and Reed Harkness, who go on a 2,000-mile road trip to solve a family mystery. Sam’s mother is missing, and the two brothers use their creative world of fiction filmmaking to delve into the issue headfirst. They take a spontaneous road trip to find answers and discover Sam’s mother’s complicated adoption history from Japan. The documentary uses a hybrid narrative approach, drawing from a vast archive of fictional films, home videos, intimate family interviews, and vérité scenes from over the decades.
Shooting on nearly every camera format imaginable, from hand-developed Super 8 film to Arri 4K, the film captures the journey of Sam coming of age from 11 to 36. The documentary balances heavy themes and emotional reckonings with buoyant energy and lighthearted spirit. It also showcases the ripple effects of Sam’s mother’s absence on the Harkness family, including his brother Jared, father Randy, and grandmother Doris.
“Sam Now” is about growth and breaking the cycle of intergenerational trauma. The optimistic teenage Sam, with his heart set on finding his mom, grows into a man whose new hope is to break the cycle of intergenerational trauma. The documentary is a beautiful tribute to family and the power of perseverance.
Director Reed Harkness has also directed the award-winning 30-minute documentary “Forest on Fire” and the documentary series for Topic, “House on Fire.”