Resilience

Here is a story from the Korean Herald about the film Resilience by filmmaker Tammy Chu. It premiered this past weekend at the Pusan International Film Festival.

I, along with Mr. Harlow's Monkey and my two kids, had the extreme pleasure of meeting Mrs. Noh in 2007 and participated along with her in the first-ever birth mother protest. Just now, I was looking at a photo of my son playing with her daughter outside the restaurant where we shared lunch together along with several other Korean mothers who relinquished their children for international adoption.

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'Resilience' looks at often-ignored mothers of adoption.

By Matthew Lamers and Shannon Heit


Behind the glamour of adoption, new beginnings and happy reunions,
there is another, darker side of loss and separation for birth mothers,
birth families, and adoptees that is often left out of the discussion.

Popular culture mostly fails to take up the issue from the
perspective of the birth mother. What factors forced the decision to
give up her child? Were there other options? How has she coped since?

Filmmaker Tammy Chu asks those questions, but also considers the
feeling of separation from the side of the adoptee and the sometimes
life-long journey to find identity and belonging.

The official film website is here.

Sound familiar?

"It doesn't matter where we live":

Nisha, now a petite 26-year-old with a quick smile, was adopted from
Goa by an all-white family at the age of six months and raised in “the
white part of America”, as her father Randy puts it. The couple never
taught Nisha anything about her birth country or culture, though they
did retain her name and abided by one request the birth mother had
made: never to cut Nisha’s hair. She didn’t cut it until she went to
college.

"Because love is all you need":

Stephanie says she figured “everyone would love each other”
and that would be enough for Nisha to adjust to her adopted life in the
US.

"It's awkward approaching people from my child's culture. Besides, s/he's American now"

“I didn’t know any Indian people,” her father says. “And I guess I
probably wouldn’t have known how to approach them even if I did. Would
I say, ‘You know, my daughter’s Indian. Would you mind if she hangs out
with you?’”

Though she didn’t realize it as a child, it bothered Nisha when she
grew up and realized she had never been exposed to her own culture.

"My child will let me know if s/he wants to learn more about his/her culture" :

She
resented her parents for never trying to teach her about where she came
from. The resentment bore down on her and when it was time to pick a
college four years ago, she moved miles away from her family in
Sacramento to San Diego. When she finally told her parents how she felt
two years ago, they were shocked, unaware of how much pain the adoption
had caused her.

Her parents never thought her looking different
mattered. To them she was simply a part of the family they had waited
years to get.

"My child and I are close, s/he can tell me anything!" :

Nisha loves her family, but admits she feels closer to her friends.
She feels she can never be really open about her feelings to her family
and that sometimes it’s more simple not to say anything to them at all.

"My child has the best of both worlds, culturally. She is a bridge between American and [insert ethnicity] cultures":

For Nisha, it is just easier to talk about herself to people who
understand what it is like to have a white person question her American
citizenship, or to people who can make a joke when she feels dumb that
an Indian family walks up to her and speaks in Hindi and she can’t
answer.

Skin Deep: Adopted
by an American family 25 years ago, Goa-born Nisha Grayson is coming
back ‘home’ in search of her birth mother and herself.

From Live Mint.com (Wall Street Journal)

“Blind Side” or blind spot?

I saw this trailer the other day when I went to see Julia & Julie, and it made me sigh (I sigh a lot!).

It's got all the right elements for my ire:

  • a rich white family who is well-meaning but maybe idealistic
  • a poor black kid who has nothing and a family/community who is neglectful
  • a way for the poor black kid to "overcome" his poverty and background
  • a feel-good redemption in the end as the rich white person ends up learning some sort of "lesson."
  • Don't forget that the poor black kid will be tested – will he choose his abusive black community/family who will try and pull him back down? Because you know that one thing poor black communities just hate is if one of their own succeeds!
  • Oh, and a line where in response to the poor kid being seen as lucky to have been adopted by the rich family, a line where she says, "I'm the lucky one."

Yeah, I hated hated hated the trailer – but – after reading this review from Entertainment Weekly website, I might read the book (I will definitely read the book before I see the movie).

From EW's Margaret Lyons:

"… my
concerns remain the same: that this will be a cheesy adaptation of an incredibly interesting and complex story.
If you’ve read the excellent book — and I can’t recommend it highly
enough — you may also worry that the movie will ignore its real
strengths, namely Michael Lewis’ ability to make professional
football’s shift towards a quarterback-dominant passing game sound
interesting. I don’t even give a fart about football, but I loved this
book."

Will this film be another in a line of Great White Hope movies, with a side of transracial adoption? Or is this just an example of my own blind spot? We'll have to wait and see.

Trailer below.

Resilience

Coming this fall. Resilience. A film by Tammy Chu.

HomeV3

Myung-ja Noh had no choice in giving up her baby for adoption. Her relatives took her baby to a hospital, which then contacted an adoption agency that came and took the baby away.

At the time, they believed adoption was the best option since she was young and poor.

Devastated, she searched for her son for years but was unable to find him.

She says she spent years being lost, and was never able to recover from losing her son. “If given the choice, I would never give up my child. I want to tell mothers not to give up their children for adoption and instead raise them, no matter how difficult it is… Losing my child is something I will not get over for as long as I live.”

Official film web site here.

Art imitates life

It seems I can't go to movies anymore without a preview or the main feature including some bit about international adoption (usually it's an Asian girl adoption) and typically it's a white couple involved, like in Sex and the City. But it looks like maybe the new Hollywood trend is white gay and lesbian couples adopting Asian girls.

Last night Mr. HM and I went to see the movie Adam. One of the previews was for a new television comedy called Modern Family which will be aired on ABC this fall. The sitcom features a white gay couple adopting a girl from Vietnam. I have a feeling a lot of stereotypes will be bandied about, even with the emphasis on how "diverse families: can be. For example, why does practically every article I read about this sitcom talk about the only Latina woman as a "firecracker sexpot" or some other equally offensive hyper-sexualized description and her son is constantly described as "passionate."

Anyway, in the movie (main feature), the main character goes to a party where a lesbian couple has just adopted a Chinese girl.

Adoptee artist Amber Field

Amber Field explores race, gender and adoption in Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe. From an interview with Ed Moy.

In Amber Field's documentary short film Jagadamba, Mother of the Universe
(2008, 10 min), she invites viewers into her life as a queer
transracial (Korean) adoptee who grew up in Korea, Nepal, and Liberia
and then moved to Illinois when she was 12-years-old.

The film
explores her childhood growing up in the Midwest, adoption, race,
sexuality, and her life-long healing journey through music.

Her website is amberfieldmusic.com.

Film: Approved for Adoption

Approved for Adoption is a new movie from Laurent
Boileau.. The trailer was haunting and so familiar. Gave me lumps in the throat. I can't wait to see it some day, and I hope that it gets a US distributor.

From the Imprint TALK web site.

Approved for Adoption, a hybrid animated/documentary, is being hailed as the Korean PersepolisPersepolis
was an Oscar nominated film in 2007 that used animation to tell the
story of the narrators memories of childhood and adolescence.

The film is directed by French filmmaker Laurent
Boileau.
The official website (in French) is here.

ETA: I fixed the link – thanks P for letting me know!

Disney’s newest animated character based after Korean

The Korean Face of Pixar's Latest Star

Russell (top) and Peter Sohn /Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios
Russell (top) and Peter Sohn /Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios

The
boy hero of Disney/Pixar's new animation "Up," which raked US$68
million in the first week since its U.S. release, is modeled after a
Korean employee in the Pixar Studios. The little boy Russell is modeled
after Peter Sohn, a 32-year-old ethnic Korean production artist who has
been working with Pixar since 2000.

Sohn also made his debut as
a short film director with four-minute animation "Partly Cloudy," which
was released along with "Up."

You can read the rest of the article here. What is interesting to me is that I never knew the boy character was supposed to be Asian. Did you?