How do you make a man?


New Minnesota documentary “Journeyman” premiers at Riverview Theater November 15 at 7 p.m.

Journeyman (, says filmmakers Kevin Obsatz and Charlie Borden, “is about rites of passage, mentoring and male culture in America.” That sounds like a lot of territory to cover, but I think they succeed. I saw the film in a rough edit form and found it deeply moving, informative and thought provoking.

Cristopher Anderson, writer and filmmaker, is president of his communications company Cris Anderson Productions and served as a paid consultant for Journeyman.

Speaking at my church recently, I asked members of the congregation to raise their hand if they had never been affected by male violence. Not a single hand in the auditorium came up. I know at least three women who have been raped. My wife has been physically assaulted on the street twice, my grown daughter twice – always by young men. Without consulting statistics, it is my opinion that male violence is an issue all of us should care about, especially older men.

In their promotional material, the filmmakers quote an African proverb, “If we do not initiate the boys, they will burn the village down.” If we look around our communities, country and world, say experts interviewed in the documentary, we see a lot of “fires” set by young men they call “uninitiated boys” and grown men who act like uninitiated boys. Perhaps it’s too simple to draw this large conclusion from the story of the two young men in this documentary, but you can see for yourself.

Journeyman follows two “at risk” youth, Joe and Mike. One struggles with depression, the other with violence. We get an inside look into what Boys to Men calls a “rights of passage adventure,” as the young men work with adult male mentors. They face some challenging experiences, learn about themselves and learn to engage with a group of supportive adult men. It’s dramatic and, at times, moving to watch.

The documentary includes interviews with researchers and authors who put this particular story into a much larger social context. These include Michael Gurian (The Wonder of Boys), Dr. Michael Obsatz (Raising Nonviolent Children in a Violent World and, yes, Kevin’s father), Dr. Barbara Coloroso (Kids are Worth It) and Dr. David Walsh (Selling Out America’s Children). Also interviewed are some of the founders of the Boys to Men training program, who are also associated with the Mankind Project. The Mankind Project is an international organization, started in Wisconsin in the late 1980’s, that provides intensive initiatory training for adult men based in mythology and emotional processes.

The therapist and author Earl Hipp (Man-Making), not quoted in the documentary, writes that he thinks the Boys to Men program or something like it might be a new Boy Scouts of America with large potential impact. While the evidence in the documentary looks anecdotal, Hipp’s comment makes me wonder how our society might be different if most young men had access to these kinds of experiences and relationships.

And it is interesting to meet some of the older adult men who are serving as mentors, and to see how being a mentor to a young man in the Boys to Men program impacts the mentors.

I think Journeyman is important and provocative. Parents and anyone involved with youth and youth issues, including social workers, educators, religious leaders and policymakers may find it useful.

Co-director Kevin Obsatz is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California film school. This is his first documentary project. Co-Director Charlie Borden is a community organizer and former leader of the Minnesota Boys to Men organization. This is his first film. Primary funding for the project has come from Mr. Borden. The non-profit project is supported additionally by a group of contributors and consultants.

This film is advocacy journalism, produced by people who are or whose programs are the subject of the documentary, somewhat similar to the very successful recent film Born Into Brothels. Like the previous documentary, Journeyman also may serve to educate audiences and attract participation to develop and support programs. Borden and Obsatz are scheduling screenings in larger cities in the U.S. through local Boys to Men organizations and hope to release it further through local and national public television broadcasts, and film festivals.

Tickets are $8 at the door. Refreshments, and a Q&A with the filmmakers and representatives of organizations that work with boys will follow the screening.

More information and a trailer for the film is available at