Thursday, June 28, 2012
When the “one child only” policy came into effect in China it caused a dilemma or two for families. If a woman was pregnant – and going through with the birth might violate the government’s one child rule – the parents might have to consider abortion.
On the other hand, abandoning a child after it came into the world would also result in stiff fines being imposed, as well.
In the well-crafted documentary “Somewhere Between” (which has won a bevy of awards at film festivals around the country) filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton therefore chose to focus her searing lens on the subject of adoption.
Normally, films made on the subject have been from the point of view of the adoptive Caucasian parents or the adult adoptee. In this instance case, the adopted children tell their own stories to camera.
The film - in fact - puts the spotlight on three years in the lives of four young women (Haley, Jenna, Ann, and Fang) who were originally abandoned - then placed in orphanages - where they were eventually rescued by residents of the U.S.
Essentially, Knowlton (who adopted a child from China) chronicles their emotional coming-of-age with great sensitivity (for the most part) and with sincere passion.
On screen the girls ultimately ask the question – who am I? – and subsequently come up with some surprising – and at times humorous – answers after some reflection.
“I’m a banana,” one teen giggles.
“I’m yellow on the outside, but white on the inside.”
As they explore their individual destinies, they come to terms with their own sense of identity and feelings about family and “belonging”.
At times, they sadly refer to themselves as the “others”.
According to the producers - cultural disconnects, stereotyping, and race - are still prevalent in our society (even in modern-day America in spite of our so-called sophistication).
This is evident in in one scene where one of the young teens is quizzed by a male student at her locker during recess.
“Do you have white parents?”
When she nodded in the affirmative, he probed further.
“Did you live in an orphanage?”
In spite of angry protests from the other students present, the young Asian-American teen remained “cool”. I imagine that on the “inside” she was crying, though. It was heartbreaking to watch.
At one point in the film the adoptive parents help their daughter track down her birth parents to resolve unresolved issues from the past.
When a gentleman steps forward and announces he’s her birth dad, DNA tests are taken to verify the facts for the official record.
Once it has been determined that he is the birth father - arrangements were made for the birth parents, the adoptive parents, officials - and the young gal - to meet and gather all the facts surrounding her birth, abandonment, and subsequent adoption.
As the young teen stood with a forced plastic smile on her face, her birth mother described in detail how she disposed of the child that fateful day when the decision was made to abandon her.
That was one of the few scenes I highly objected to. It disturbed me that they would subject the child to such a disturbing experience that would undoubtedly remain in her consciousness for the rest of her life.
I know from whence I speak.
I was a foster child, after all.
Around the age of seven, I recall playing happily in the living-room one day, when a stranger came to the door out-of-the-blue. My mother handed him a paper bag containing my clothes – at which point – he walked me to a waiting car at the curb.
With no explanation, we drove off down the street. As I looked back out the window, I spotted my mother crying on the front porch stricken with grief.
That scene will be indelibly etched in my memory forever!
I expect that in the instance of the young subject in the film - the authorities and her adoptive parents – thought it would be good therapy.
I say shame on the director for including the scene in the documentary. After all, the four young ladies featured in the doc are happy well-adjusted kids today, in spite of their humble beginnings. Why look back?
“I hope the film will create an emotional experience for viewers, and in the process educate and help create a language that helps describe what it means to be “other” in the U.S. I also hope the film will inspire reflection on how we all form our identities, and on our growing global and personal interconnections, especially those networks of women and girls that have been formed due to this large wave of adoptions,” underscored the director in a press release to the media.
At a Q & A this past week at a screening at SoHo House, Knowlton noted that today it is more difficult to adopt a Chinese child because more adoptions are taking place within the country by Asian citizens.
Yes, charity begins at home.
"Somewhere Between" is slated for a release on August 24th at the IFC Center in NYC.
Another release will follow on September 14th at the Landmark Nuart in Los Angeles.
Catch it if you can!