Central Christian Church in Mesa, Ariz., hosted 2,000 people last week for the screening of a documentary called "Absent," a movie directed by Justin Hunt, who is a member of the church, that examines the impact on society of growing up without a father.
Seated across from Hunt during the Q & A session after the screening was Metallica lead singer James Hetfield, whose father left his family when he was 13.
Hetfield is one of the people featured in the documentary, during which he explains how some of the lyrics he penned for Metallica songs deal directly with the pain he suffered as a result of his father leaving.
“He left without saying goodbye,” Hetfield says in the trailer. “He left a note – he left a note, and it wasn’t even to me.”
Hetfield’s mother died from cancer when he was 16.
All these years later, Hetfield is married and has three children of his own. He hasn’t always been the type of father he knows he should have been, but he says it is better to make mistakes than not showing up.
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“You can change the past by not recreating it,” Hetfield said in March on Fox & Friends on Fox News when discussing the movie. “And that’s what we’re here to state – is that as a man you can show up for your kids’ lives ... you know, this is an adventure for me.
“I’m able to go back in my father’s footsteps and his father’s and kind of figure out where the father wound is coming from and figure out how he didn’t know how to be a father because of where he came from and I’m here to be the warrior and step up and say, ‘The lineage of that stops here.’”
After the screening, Hetfield and Hunt took questions from the crowd.
“I really learned so much from this process,” Hetfield told the audience, according to the Arizona Republic. “When Justin asked me to be a part of this, I had no idea how much it was going to affect me, my family. My relationship with my son has definitely changed quite a bit.
“The relationship with my girls as well, has just totally stepped up to another level of me showing them how much they should appreciate how beautiful they are just as they are. Tackling some of the issues that are starting to come up with teens. My oldest is turning 13 next month and, you know, learning about sex, learning about dating, learning about puberty, things like that. It’s a very scary subject, especially for a dad.”
Hetfield grew up in a home in which his parents were into Christian Science and he felt alienated as a child because he couldn’t participate in some aspects of health class and he had to be exempted from taking a physical for the football team. He tried to explain it all to his friends but it was awkward for him and he says he never fully understood it.
“I was put through some tests as a child, and, you know, religion was really difficult to grasp as a child,” Hetfield said when the subject of his faith came up at the screening. “My father being the equivalent of a pastor and really hardcore at home, I felt very smothered by all of that and I didn’t understand. And I didn’t feel free to ask questions about it because that would bring up my lack of faith. So, I have learned what great things have happened to people that can embrace a power greater than themselves. And, myself, being able to let go of the steering wheel and not trying to drive my life and knowing that there is a higher power taking care of all of us.”
No word on when “Absent” will be released on DVD, but the plan is to continue with screenings across the country as well as in London this summer.