Buddy System

Understanding men and their friendships.

Five Friends: A documentary on male friendship and intimacy

A great documentary on male friendships: Five Friends

A great new hour long documentary has just arrived from Eric Santiago and Ken Stewart about one man's (Hank's) connections with four men friends.  The film shows the racial, age, and class diversity that can occur between men friends and how they can engage in deeply moving discussions about feelings, life, marriages lost, and relationships won.  It aired yesterday at a special showing in Hartford and has also been shown at an academic conference aimed at men's issues.  Sociologist Michael Kimmel intersperses commentary that helps give a broader view of men's friendships than just the idiosyncractic view offered by Hank et al.  This helps to round out an understanding of the topic of male friendships.  In Hank's view (and I appeared with him on John Dankovsky's talk show on WNPR), men's friendships should involve open discussions about feelings. Men should work toward a physically and emotionally expressive relationship with other men. Only then, Hank believes, can true connections be made. Men are often afraid to express their emotions and vulnerabilities to other men.  Not Hank. In one great scene in the movie, he is having breakfast with a friend who is cooking up scrambled eggs.  As they sit down to eat, Hank tells his friend he gets jealous when he hears this friend is going off with other guys for a weekend.  He feels left out and wants to be included. It is a well-done and understated scene that I think speaks to what many other men would feel in this situation but would never feel comfortable saying.  Hank also said on the radio how these close male friendships also enhance couple friendships (I will write more about couple friendships in the future).  The men in the video are nested in families; though women and children play only a peripheral role in this film, Eric Santiago opens and closes the movie with his feelings about the birth of his first son - who appears in the final scene.

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Men's groups in particular might enjoy the film but anyone working with men who have problems with getting close to other men could also benefit.  It can be found at www.fivefriendsmovie.com

Geoffrey Greif, Ph.D., is a Professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work and author of Buddy System: Understanding Male Friendships.

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