In ‘Father Unknown,’ a son takes reluctant father on journey to the past

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Father Unknown Photo
Denver filmmaker David Quint (left) and his father, Urban.

For years, Denver filmmaker David Quint felt disconnected from the people closest to him — friends and family. His father, in particular, was a distant, mysterious figure whose past was rarely discussed.

Sometimes, he would talk about a river, a big stone wall, a castle, shoes that were too small. A room full of potatoes. Rows of beds. David knew that his father, Urban, was from Switzerland and came to the United States as a boy to join his mother, but that was about all. He wanted to know more, even if his father was reluctant to dig up the past.

“Father Unknown,” which premieres Saturday at the Starz Denver Film Festival, documents a trip David and Urban took to Switzerland in search of answers. They visit the “castle” -- actually, an orphanage -- where Urban grew up, and they meet an old friend of Urban’s, who was also raised in the orphanage.

Along the way, David records everything on his iPhone, creating a kind of “accidental film.” Together, they make some remarkable, and transformative, discoveries about Urban’s past and the family he never knew.

“It’s been a huge transformation for me personally, and for my dad -- in profound ways that we could not have possibly imagined in advance," David says.