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test tubes in a lab for sperm donation

“Our Father,” Netflix.

A horror story presented as too much of a horror movie, “Our Father” features interviews with the offspring of fertility doctor Donald Cline, but certainly not all of them. Beginning in 1979, Dr. Cline, by his own admission, used his own sperm to impregnate patients at his Indianapolis clinic. At the end of director Lucie Jourdan’s documentary, the tally of siblings is clocked at 94. And counting.

It’s a deranged story, one that offers all kinds of opportunities for examining changes in the state of artificial insemination, medical ethics, the ways in which the human body has been opened up like an evidence locker, and the catchup that legislation has to play with technology. When Dr. Cline began his reign of genetic terror, he couldn’t have imagined that he’d be undone by DNA and someone like Jacoba Ballard, whose ancestry search through 23andMe led to the discovery of dozens of half-siblings, and a legal system that offered them no recourse.

What distinguishes great documentaries is often enough a willingness of filmmakers to follow where the story leads... see more