Filmmaker Reed Harkness documents his younger brother Sam, dealing with the disappearance of his mother in the powerful coming-of-age documentary film Sam Now, world premiering at Hot Docs film festival.
Sam Harkness and his Seattle family are shocked and heartbroken when his mother suddenly disappears. Tracking cryptic clues of her whereabouts years later, Sam and his half brother head out on a West Coast road trip to try and find her. But solving the mystery of her disappearance is only the beginning of their story.
As the narrative unfolds, we witness Sam coming of age as he tries to break free from a singular traumatic event, one that has replicated itself in his family for generations. Sobering revelations of personal growth blend with playful home movies and vibrant experimental filmmaking by brother and director Reed Harkness.
The documentary follows Sam as he grows up, using a vivid collage of vintage fictional films, home videos, intimate family interviews and vérité scenes from over the decades. We see him take a 2,000-mile road trip in search of answers. We learn of his mother Jois’ complicated adoption history from Japan. And we experience the ripple effects on the Harkness family including Sam’s brother Jared, father Randy and grandma Doris.
Sam Now is about growth. The film balances heavy themes and emotional reckonings with youthful energy and lighthearted spirit. The optimistic teenage Sam we get to know, with his heart set on finding his mom, grows into a man whose new hope is to break the generational cycle.
Filmmaker Reed attended film school in his backyard and garage. At age 18, he began making a series of short films starring his younger brother Sam. This was the beginning of a project two decades in the making: Sam Now, a coming-of-age film that follows his brother from age 11 to 31. Reed also directed the award-winning 30-minute documentary Forest on Fire and the documentary series for Topic, House on Fire.