True beginners

{ITAL Uptown Film Festival
March 8-10
Birmingham 8 Theatre
211 S. Old Woodward Ave.
Birmingham, MI 48009

In her non-fictional directorial debut, Sophia Kruz tells a story about personal triumph, love and self-acceptance. Through her documentary film "Time Dances On," Kruz incorporates video production and still photography to follow the story of her father, Jim Kruz. Like a real-life "Beginners," she captures his life from childhood through his stint as a swing-dance teacher in Ann Arbor, his marriage to Kruz's mother Deb, and his ultimate acceptance of who he truly is – a confident gay man.
The film, nominated in three short-film categories at this year's Michigan Film Awards, will screen at 12:30 p.m. March 10 at the Birmingham 8 Theatre during the second annual Uptown Film Festival in Birmingham. It won Best Documentary Feature at the 2011 Made in Michigan Film Festival and was also nominated for Best Gay/Lesbian Film at the 2011 Great Lakes International Film Festival.
"Time Dances On" served as Kruz's senior thesis, earning her a Bachelor's degree in Screen Arts and Cultures from the University of Michigan in 2011.
"I am overwhelmingly happy with the film," says the 22-year-old, who owns and operates Ann Arbor-based Sophia Kruz Productions (, founded in 2009. "This is certainly more than I could have ever asked for. The film speaks to a broader audience and is getting attention for that. Being nominated is a really great surprise."
With just her laptop and her camera, Kruz has humanized her father in a way nobody else can. She researched her family's history and Michigan gay history for the film, which includes interviews with her parents and their friends, archival photos and news clips. Born into a devout Catholic home in 1950s Detroit, Jim was the third in a family of four straight boys. He discovered his attraction to other boys when he was around the age of 13, but never acted on it.
While attending the University of Michigan, he made new friends, but still wasn't comfortable being himself. Being gay then wasn't an option. "He met my mom teaching swing dance," Kruz says. "They hit it off and for the first time he felt like it could work with a woman, that he could have a wife and kids and lead a straight life. I truly believe they were in love.
"My mom wanted to be with someone who was attracted to her. She initiated their divorce, but they stayed very good friends. My dad told her about his attraction to men. The transparency and honesty in their relationship is so special. They continue to raise me from separate homes, but all major decisions about me are made together."
Kruz was inspired by her personal history, but hopes to raise awareness about gay parenting as well. "The film shows an example of a successful gay parenting story. I love him a lot and he did a great job," Kruz says. "He's been so supportive every step of the way. He's been open and honest with the questions I've asked and shared stories from well before I was born. My parents are both private people, and although my mom hesitated at first, she gave me the go-ahead to create the film. I'm not sure what my next personal project is, but I am still young and would like to continue doing documentary films."