INDIANAPOLIS — With Netflix’s “Our Father” set to premiere on May 11, FOX59’s Angela Ganote sat down with the filmmakers and subjects of the documentary to talk about the seven-year journey of bringing Dr. Donald Cline’s dark secrets out into the light.
For Jacoba Ballard, who first reached out to Angela Ganote after discovering she had at least seven biological siblings, the chance to tell her story and inform the world of Cline’s lies and deception meant everything.
“Seven years ago, I could’ve never imagined. Actually, all I could do was imagine it,” Ballard confessed to Angela.
Cline’s dark secrets have been well-documented by Angela and FOX59. Cline, a former Indianapolis fertility clinic doctor, would go on to confess to using his own sperm to impregnate his patients without their knowledge. To date, Ballard continues to discover more siblings fathered by the doctor’s deception. By last count, the number of children Cline has fathered has nearly eclipsed 100.
One of those formerly unknown siblings, Heather Woock, appears in the upcoming Netflix documentary. For Woock, the discovery of her hidden origin came as a monumental shock, one that triggered an identity crisis and made her have to reexamine and process her relationship with her parents.
“I didn’t know I was donor-conceived at all,” Woock confessed to Angela, her parents having lied about her true origins until she took a DNA test and discovered she too was a child of Dr. Cline.
“That has been the most challenging thing for me personally,” Woock said. “It’s put me on a path of making sure everyone knew this is something that can and has happened many times. Hopefully, we can prevent it for the future.”
Director Lucie Jourdan devoted four years to bringing the story of unaware siblings and the doctor’s deception to the world.
“I was appalled that justice was not served,” Jourdan told Angela.
Both her and producer Michael Petrella wanted more repercussions for Cline than the $500 fine he was eventually hit with. They wanted justice. They wanted a platform and space for the victims to be seen. To be heard. To find catharsis.
“I don’t want to call them victims,” Jourdan said. “They’re siblings. They’re incredible humans. There is not a victim among them. They are strong and powerful.”
Jourdan said the journey of bringing the children of Dr. Cline’s story to life changed her soul. It made her realize this is what she wanted to do for the rest of her life, give a voice to those who feel voiceless.
“I am on a newfound mission to do this for the rest of my life,” she told Angela.
Petrella said making the documentary meant a lot to him as well.
“It wasn’t always easy… but it was important to both Lucy and I to give (these siblings) the space to speak,” he said. “They’ve been made to feel they didn’t matter. Their pain didn’t matter. Their voice didn’t matter.”
For the filmmakers, it was important for the documentary “Our Father” to be as accurate as possible, even down to finding an actor who was eerily similar in appearance to Dr. Cline for the reenactments featured in the final work.
Petrella said he hopes Ballard, Woock and all the rest of Cline’s children can find catharsis in the documentary and in the accurate portrayal of their story. He said he hoped them being able to relive these heartwrenching moments will allow them to at last put it all behind them and find peace.
For Woock, she hopes the documentary will not only open people’s eyes but destigmatize families and women who turn to fertility doctors in order to have children.
“I hope people realize that silence is one of the things that led to this,” Woock said. “Our parents didn’t tell anyone about what they went through.”
Jourdan sees the documentary as a film about consent. She has read the online comments. She has seen the heartbreaking words people have written that brushed off what had happened to the women who were lied to by Cline due to the women’s desire to bear a child. All Cline had to do was tell the women he didn’t have any donors, Jourdan said. All he had to do was give them a choice.
“I hope viewers step away from this with more empathy for people,” she said.
For Ballard, the end may not look too different than the beginning. Dr. Cline is at home, not in a jail cell. He was fined a mere $500 and never saw a day behind bars.
“I feel like the state failed us. The attorney general failed us,” she confessed.
But through it all, Ballard has found she has more family than she’d ever known. She has siblings, more being uncovered nearly every day.
“I don’t think it was just Donald Cline,” Ballard warns. “If you went to any fertility doctor you probably need to get a DNA test.”
There are resources out there for others who may have the same shrouded origin as Ballard and Woock.
“You can reach out to me,” she said to anyone who may be in the same place she was seven years ago. A place that could’ve stayed in the dark. A place where Dr. Cline’s lies may never have been revealed to the world had not Angela picked up the phone.
“You and Jacoba are the reason we are here,” Jourdan told Angela, thanking her for her dedication.
Stream “Our Father” on Netflix starting May 11 and watch the entire story unfold.