Machine shop owner Frank Minden has been around so long, he chuckles in Denise Ohio’s fondly told documentary “Family Business,” that he remembers speaking to a Civil War veteran when he was a kid. Though he’s worked at a variety of jobs throughout his long life, his most rewarding years have obviously been those when he owned his own business, machining auto parts and rebuilding truck engines thought to be beyond repair.
Mr. Minden never speaks on camera, instead letting his battered but expert hands do the talking as they labor effortlessly in his orderly shop. Nonetheless, he emerges, through his voice-over and interviews with his large brood of children and his wife Marge, as a stoic, no-nonsense family patriarch; admired and greatly respected, if not always adored.
Although this makes an interesting enough family case study, it still remains somewhat of a mystery why Ohio chose to make the long-time machinist the reluctant subject of this video. There are literally millions of other folks out there just like him. An exploration of what he does; how he brings those worn out engines back from the dead, might have been more compelling.
Yet, Ohio may have inadvertently stumbled onto something here. “Family Business” could almost serve as the prototype video for a company devoted to personal documentaries. Think of it as “Biography” for ordinary folks. Yet, in much the same way that home movies may be entertaining and fascinating for the subject and his or her family, there’s just not that much about “Family Business” that will be of interest to anyone else.