The documentary film titled "How Do You Measure a Year?" captures a unique father-daughter relationship.
For all the existential philosophists out there, "How Do You Measure a Year?" might be an indulgence. Every year on her birthday, a father asked his daughter philosophical questions and recorded her responses. Her responses, from the age of two to eighteen, are now the subject of a 29-minute nostalgic documentary. It is directed by independent filmmaker Jay Rosenblatt and features his daughter. It will premiere on HBO and Max on June 14 in time for Father's Day. The Oscar-nominated depicts the transition from youthful naivety to adolescent rebelliousness.
"What do you want to do when you grow up?" Rosenblatt asks a very young Ella in the film’s trailer. "Put on makeup and eat gum," she answers. "To be a good person but not be perfect," says Ella when she's older. Questions like "What do you want to say to your older self?" "Are you happy?" and "What would you like to say?" give a glimpse of evolving father-daughter relationship. Rosenblatt asks a more grown-up Ella what she's most afraid of in one powerful scene. "Life," she says. "I'm afraid of living. Because there are twists and turns that you don't expect and it can be rough. And I don't want to go through that."
When she was 11, he asked her thoughts on "Power" to which she replies, "Power is being yourself. That takes a lot of power." Rosenblatt also inquires about Ella's thoughts on their relationship. Ella reflects on her "tough" relationship with her father. "I think it's gotten worse the past few months," she says. "But — well, actually not worse. Just a little more difficult because we've been fighting a lot ... but we always make up and forgive each other in the end. So I feel pretty good about it."
Rosenblatt tolf with TODAY that he did not necessarily had an intention of turning his footage into a film. "I just thought this would be a great project that if it didn’t turn into a film, it would be a great archive for her," he said. "The film shows how important it is to check in with your kids, people might think, 'That is something I want to do with my kid,' (which would be) a good exercise." He adds, "We also see a girl go through all the different stages of growing up — especially the challenges (when she's a) tween and teen — and you see her come out on the other side of it. Based on what other parents have told me, it's more hope that this too shall pass."
It's not the first time the father-daughter duo has collaborated; the 10-minute short "I Used to Be a Filmmaker" documents the pair's relationship when Ella was a newborn, and "Beginning Filmmaking" follows Rosenblatt's attempts to teach Ella, then a preschooler, how to make a film using her very own video camera. His other short films, "I'm Charlie Chaplin" and "I Like It A Lot" depict other significant events in Ella's life.
Jay Rosenblatt and daughter Ella talk about their new Oscar-nominated HBO documentary “How Do You Measure a Year,” which serves as a father-to-daughter love letter consisting of home video interviews where Jay asks Ella the same questions on her birthday every year for 18 years. pic.twitter.com/2sHrr21TMX— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 13, 2023
According to Rosenblatt, watching the latest footage made him appreciate his daughter even more. "How amazing a person she is and how much I love her," he said. "As a parent, it goes by so fast, so part of my motivation in filming or even home movies is just to hold on to it as long as you can." He told Deadline about his documentary, "I am thrilled HBO has acquired 'How Do You Measure a Year?' Given that HBO has debuted two previous films I made with my daughter, and much of my other work, they are the perfect home for this film and for me as a filmmaker."