PHOENIX — The relationship between a father and his child molds and shapes that child's personality and future. Children without fathers often experience a need for an emotional bond that is absent.

This is what New Mexico filmmaker Justin Hunt examines in his new documentary "Absent," which will be released June 1.

Hunt began the project two years ago. He was divorced with two children. "I was a single father, and I saw the dangers of not being there," he said from his home in Chandler, Ariz. Hunt moved from Farmington to Arizona to be close to his children Lance and Abby. Their mother relocated to the Phoenix area.

Already working on "Absent," Hunt started making connections with people over the Internet. He had interviewed prize fighter Johnny Tapia, Christian author John Eldredge, and author Richard Rohr. Hunt was negotiating with possible narrators when his big break came via an e-mail, received two weeks ago.

"I was driving on the freeway I almost crashed," Hunt said. The e-mail was from Metallica. The heavy metal band's front man James Hetfield wanted to be involved with the project.

Hetfield came from a broken home. "My family fell apart," he said in a clip from the film. "I had feelings of abandonment."

The candid and emotional interview shows a rare side of Hetfield. This leader of one of rock's monster bands has three children with his wife Francesca.

But with a closer look at his lyrics, according to Hunt, there is the pain from the absence of Hetfield's father, Virgil.


Hunt was granted access to those lyrics as well as the use of six Metallica songs within the movie. He recently was invited back to Metallica headquarters in San Francisco, where he will record a voice-over of Hetfield reading song lyrics.

Former Daily Times photographer Ben Chrisman accompanied Hunt on the first interview to shoot publicity photographs and stills to use in the movie.

"They've been so accommodating. It's a surreal experience," Hunt said of the "Metallica machine." He glanced above his computer screen, where there hangs a hand-drawn picture of Hunt interviewing Hetfield. Hunt's son Lance drew the picture. Hunt reached out and hugged the child, kissing his head.

"My dad is the best," Lance said, as his sister Abby walked in the room for a hug.

Abby was the subject of the movie's opening. She is a child learning to ride her bike without training wheels. There is no father to help her in the scene.

"That was the first time she ever rode a bike by herself, and it was hard on me," Hunt said. He filmed Abby falling and hurting her leg. He had a job to do, capturing the images, but as a "great" dad he bought her a toy afterwards.

Children learning to do things on their own are just one aspect of fathers being absent, Hunt said. It still can make a mark on the way an adult turns out.

"We know that Adolf Hitler was physically abused by his father," Hunt said.

Johnny Tapia's father was killed with a gun before the fighter was born. He also is candid with Hunt about the impact that made on his life.

"This documentary is about what's happening right here. This is a really big topic that nobody has really approached," Hunt said. "We've gone from teenagers in Miami, to prostitutes in Albuquerque to Hitler to Hetfield. It's everywhere."

Hunt was inspired to produce this project after completing the Christian-based course "Wild at Heart" at Pinon Hills Community Church in Farmington. Eldredge, who plays a big role in the movie, wrote the course.

Another local in the film is Mark Garcia, who took "Wild at Heart" a step further with his own courses titled "Wildman."

"It explores the wound of not having a father," Hunt said.

"Absent" became a production that took on its own life, much like "American Meth," which was Hunts' first film.

"American Meth," a Time and Tide Production, was released in February 2008. Narrated by Val Kilmer, it won several film awards and was one of the most-rented documentaries of that year. It is available through video-on-demand from Comcast, Cox, Time Warner and Bresnan Cable Networks.

For more information about "Absent" visit