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Day-shift daddies

Monique Derenia was raised by her grandparents in Santa Clara and Las Vegas, and it was her grandfather who stayed home most of the time.

It wasn’t until years later that a subliminal connection clicked. It happened when she began making the documentary “Why Not Dad?” about stay-at-home fathers for her master’s degree in anthropology.

“I never started putting two and two together until I started making the film,” said the Grass Valley resident.

Although she didn’t start with her grandpa in mind, Derenia was intrigued by stay-at-home dads when she read a news story about them and felt there was more to be said.

“I knew it was a growing trend,” Derenia said, because she also found the phenomenon all over the Internet.

The documentary on gender and culture will screen at 6:45 p.m. Monday at the 24th Street Theater during the Sacramento International Film Festival. The short work that won an award during The Union’s online film festival last summer will be entered in the Latino Filmmaker category.

‘Just as capable’

With little research on the subject, Derenia began by finding three stay-at-home dad support groups in the Bay Area. She starting filming them at the playgrounds where they met with their children.

“Most of them had no idea why I wanted to do a film on them in the first place,” Derenia said. “The decision was normal to them.

“Most articles on it said that men stayed at home because they lost their jobs or fell into it, but the men (I talked to) said they had made a value decision with their wives and they didn’t want to take the kids to day care,” she said.

The documentary focuses on four fathers who discuss the experience of a flipped gender norm, how it affects their families and their need for peer support.

“The majority of the fathers were white, in their 40s and affluent,” Derenia said.

“It’s logical. The men have had a couple of decades to work,” Derenia said. “They’ve socked away some money, and they’re looking for a change.

“One of the goals of the film was to make it a collaboration with the dads,” Derenia said. “I didn’t want to impose my messages,” preferring to let the men portray themselves and their relationships with their children.

One of the messages that came out was, “Men are just as capable as women when they take care of kids,” Derenia said.

Although she’s thrilled with the festival recognition, Derenia said her dream is to parlay her work into a full-length documentary feature film.

“I don’t feel like it’s done yet,” she said. Derenia said whenever she shows the documentary, the audience always has a lot of questions.

The burgeoning filmmaker has submitted her film to PBS in hope of the network picking it up for the Point of View program. She wouldn’t mind if that paved the way for more.

“I would love to make this a career, to do community-based films,” Derenia said. “I doubt I’ll ever be the breadwinner, but I’m sure my husband wouldn’t mind being a stay-at-home dad.”

You can find out more about the film and view it at http://www.whynotdad.com.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call 477-4237.