Documentary about transracial adoption

I just heard about this from a friend (thanks Paul!) and the trailer had me tearing up. It looks awesome. Please check it out.

A film by Nicole Opper


With white Jewish lesbians for parents and two adopted brothers—one
mixed-race and one Korean—Brooklyn teen Avery grew up in a unique and
loving household. But when her curiosity about her African-American
roots grows, she decides to contact her birth mother. This choice
propels Avery into her own complicated exploration of race, identity,
and family that threatens to distance her from the parents she’s
always known. She begins staying away from home, starts skipping
school, and risks losing her shot at the college track career she had
always dreamed of. But when Avery decides to pick up the pieces of her
life and make sense of her identity, the results are inspiring. OFF
AND RUNNING follows Avery to the brink of adulthood, exploring the
strength of family bonds and the lengths people must go to become

Please visit their website, their Facebook page and see the trailer here.

Documentaries that represent our stories?

Last Saturday I did a training for a local adoptive parent support group, along with two others, both adoption professionals (and adoptive parents of grown children themselves). One of the other trainers asked me if I'd seen Adopted and asked what I thought of the film. I had to confess: I have not seen the main portion of the movie. I have watched all the collateral materials, all 2 hours of interviews with many people who I know personally (and most of whom I know either by name or professionally).

My take on the educational materials, which were originally supposed to be the film before the filmmakers decided to take it in a different direction, is that they are pretty good. I would recommend those portions for adoption agency trainings. I know some of the sections are supposed to be more "challenging" (but honestly I don't know that they challenge enough – or at least I always think we could push prospective adoptive parents even more) but they are definitely sufficient and with a few exceptions I thought they were honest and educational.

But, as I told my fellow trainer, I have not been able to bring myself to watch the main film – the stories of Jen and Jacqui & John. I can not do it. I know it will bring up too much emotional baggage.

So, I was wondering how many of you have seen this movie, and what are your thoughts? Would you recommend it to prospective adoptive parents? What did you think of the filmmaker's choice to follow these two families? If you've seen the whole movie (including the collateral materials), what do you think about the film conceptualized initially as the collateral materials with the stories of the two families added later? Does that change how you think about the movie? If you are an adoptive parent, do you think John and Jacqui represent your story? If you are an adopted person, do you think Jen's story resonates with you?

I plan to watch the whole film, I really do, and I will write up my thoughts after I see it. But in the meantime, I'd be interested in what others of you think of the film.

Don’t worry, there are plenty

I missed this from earlier. Robert Downey Jr in ‘blackface’ and now this nugget:

Stiller plays an action hero who has just adopted a baby from Asia but worries that ”all the good ones are gone.”

Supposedly there is a scene where Matthew McConaughay’s character tells Stiller, "Hey at least you can give yours back" (referring to his own disabled child).

So, Tropic Thunder is supposed to be a satire on Hollywood, and in lampooning egotistical movie stars they repeatedly make fun of the disabled,  adoption, child guerrilla warriors and have a major character in black face.

It opens today. Who’s seeing it? And does it work as a satire?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Asian adoptees as fashion accessories in the movies

From Red Orbit. Thanks to Andrew for the tip.

Adopting Asian Kids Becoming Latest Fad

By Mike Seate

Call me cynical, but since when did Asian children become "must have" fashion accessories for upper middle-class Americans?

Along with Calloway golf clubs and season tickets to football games,
paying $30,000 to $40,000 to adopt an exotic baby is suddenly viewed as
the most chic purchase this side of a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps.

Never mind that thousands of babies of other races — most of them
black — go without foster homes and adoptions here and elsewhere in
this country every year. It doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars
to adopt a black, Latino or mixed-race child.

But for some reason, even Hollywood is marketing Asian babies as somehow superior and more desirable.

Read the whole article here.

“Adopt Me, Michael Jordan”

A new documentary about a 12-year old Ethiopian girl adopted to the U.S.

Adopt Me, Michael Jordan follows Weynshet, a twelve-year
old girl who travels from an Ethopian orphanage to an adoptive
family in the US. In this work-in-progress documentary,
the award-winning producing team of Melanie Judd
and Susan Motamed focus on the experiences of a child,
illuminating the complications of international adoption
and raising the question of what it means to lose everything
you know in order to get what you need.

“Sex, The City, And Who’s That Adopted Asian Kid?”

Yes, I am ashamed to admit I loved Sex and the City, even though there were no people of color, somehow, in SJP’s impossibly white NYC. However, I WAS stabbed in the heart when Charlotte ends up adopting at the end of the series (Sorry for the spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen the show).

Of course, a bunch of my Korean adoptee friends are talking about seeing the movie now that the trailers give us a glimpse of Charlotte’s Chinese daughter. Fantasy mirrors reality (or is it the other way around?) – I too was the older adopted Asian kid with a bio sibling hot on my heels.

Here is one opinion of the portrayal of the adopted Chinese daughter in the movie.

A baby at any cost

** Warning: Plot spoilers**

If there was a moral to the story of "Then She Found Me," it was "a baby at any cost." Actually, this is also the theme of "Baby Mama."

Like Juno, the adoption theme of "Then She Found Me" had nothing to do with the moral complexities about pregnancy and adoption which is why, like Juno, it rang false so often. Hunt’s response to the question of what she was saying about adoption through this movie was,

I don’t have much to say about adoption, but I do have something to say
about betrayal, about making peace with betrayal, about how you can’t
really love until you’ve made peace with betrayal. You can’t really
love until you’ve made peace with the fact that life doesn’t happen the
way you want it to happen all the time. That’s really what I want to
say. I don’t have a specific agenda about adoption or the other things
in the movie. They’re just ways to tell a story.

So again, adoption was used as a way to develop a character, not a way to use characters to develop a thoughtful discussion about adoption.

Bette Midler’s character Bernice has a more layered and complex development than April, Hunt’s character. And poor Bernice is portrayed as a lying, manipulative, aggressive birth mother who can’t be trusted. April forces Bernice to admit that she "chose a life over her [April]" – all in all, a morality tale that birth mothers should not go finding the children they surrendered or, in this case, chose to "give up" in order to become wealthy and have a great career.

April, in another of the many scenes in which I found her morally repulsive, also emotionally blackmails Bernice into paying for her IVF treatments for the honor of being part of her life – when April feels like contacting her, that is. Bernice is so desperate for this small nugget that she agrees.

I was incredibly disappointed that for all the lead up, the ending of Hunt’s film offered no explanation of how April resolved the conflict to adopt. In earlier scenes, she had built up adoption as not an option because she wanted "a real baby" (she said this to her adoptive mother, as she lay dying in a hospital room).

April resorts to IVF with donor sperm that Bernice helps her pick out, Tina Fey’s character Kate chooses surrogacy. Which in both cases, there is no discussion of this baby/child who will grow up some day having all kinds of questions about their conception. While not on the radar for a lot of adoptees, there are growing numbers of adults who were conceived with donor sperm who are now also questioning what it means to be part of this complex "solution" to our parent’s dreams of motherhood and fatherhood.

Another gripe – I am getting pretty tired of movies with jokes about Chinese adoption. In Juno it was a
reference to "giving them away like iPods" and "shooting them out of
stadium  guns. Here, in "Then She Found Me"
the joke was "Why not adopt a Chinese baby? They’re throwing them in
trash cans." This was uttered by April’s adoptive mother, Bernice and brother. After insisting that she doesn’t want to
adopt a Chinese baby, guess what happens in the end of the movie. Yup.
She adopts a Chinese baby. Guess that’s one less baby in a dumpster.

In both movies as well, there are numerous class issues. I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that class plays such a huge role in alternative reproduction and adoption. I’ve known a few adoptive parents who just don’t have the means for international or domestic infant adoption programs. Somehow, they are just supposed to "get over it" or choose to adopt from foster care, which costs little to nothing. While the class issues were perhaps more obvious in "Baby Mama," and "Juno," the portrayal of April as a frumpy, birkenstock-wearing plain Jane to Bernice’s suit-and-stilettoed birth mom makes its own statement about class – which makes me wonder if April emotionally blackmails Bernice into paying the $25,000 for her Chinese adopted daughter.

If there is a theme to "Then She Found Me"  and "Baby Mama" (and to a smaller degree, Juno) it is that middle-class, white, control-freak women feel entitled to be mothers, no matter what the emotional or moral cost and will do anything to get what they want even if it means using other people to get it. Yes, I know this is not what all white women who adopt or choose surrogacy do – but this is how Hollywood is portraying it. I would love to see a more thoughtful portrayal of adoption in film, something that does explore the pain of wanting a baby when infertile, the characters wrestling with the moral and ethical complexities of surrogacy and donor sperm and adopting internationally. Using a completely unlikable character like April only adds to my irritation. Had April been more likable, less brittle and shown some real struggle with her ticking clock I would have wanted to be there with her. In this way I actually think the portrayal of Vanessa, the adoptive mom in Juno, showed a lot more character development.

I guess it’s not too surprising. Even with Hunt’s desire to create and direct an "indie-style" film, for all it’s intentions it read pure Hollywood ending. She ends up with the man and the desperately-wanted baby she managed to get, no matter the literal or figurative cost.

Daniel Henney and the Real Man Behind His Role in Interview

From the Chosun Ilbo comes this story about the Korean drama, "My Father" in which actor Daniel Henney plays a Korean adoptee who returns to Korea to find his birth father, only to find he is on death row. In real life Henney is the son of a Korean adoptee and the movie is based on a true story. The real man behind the movie, Eron Bates and Henney speak about the movie in this interview. Some excerpts:

Eron Bates/ Born in 1973, he was adopted by an American family when he was six. He joined the U.S. Army in college and came to Korea in 1996 in an attempt to look for his biological father, whom he was reunited with in July 2000. His father has been held on death row at Gwangju Penitentiary for 10 years.

Daniel Hanney/Born in 1979. His mother was adopted by an American family when she was three, his father is British American. He made his debut in the MBC drama “My Name is Kim Sam-soon” in 2005. He also starred in “Seducing Mr. Perfect” in 2006.

Henney: ‘Yes, because my mother was adopted too. If I understood my mother about 75 percent before, now with this film I understand her 100 percent. She can barely speak Korean, so these days, I teach her Korean.’

“Tie A Yellow Ribbon”

A movie by Korean Adoptee filmaker Joy Dietrich. The official web site is here.

In the feature-length narrative film TIE A YELLOW RIBBON, Jenny Mason,
a Korean adoptee and aspiring photographer, walks the streets of New
York in a state of resigned indifference. Her days are spent with white
friends and colleagues, her nights with white men. She has no contact
with her Midwestern family due to a childhood indiscretion with her
white brother, Joe. She rejects any attachment, dumping men as fast as
she can pick them up. Yet she longs for a connection that would make
her feel at home — a home that she has lost and is forever seeking.

One day, her roommate asks her to move out, fanning her fears of
abandonment. But as one door closes, another opens. She moves in with
the beautiful but troubled Beatrice Shimizu and meets super-cool Simon
Chang, whose sister, Sandy, lives next door. Together they open a whole
new world for Jenny, an Asian American existence that she has never
explored. Her indifference toward life starts melting away, as she
embraces Bea, who battles her own self-esteem issues with family and a
philandering boyfriend, Phillip. Bea and Simon encourage and help
jumpstart Jenny’s career in photography.

Suddenly, Joe appears at her door, stirring up long lost feelings that
she has tried to bury. As Jenny searches for a voice and photographic
style that she can call her own, she finds that she must face her
unresolved feelings toward her brother and family, and ultimately
reconcile her identity as an Asian American.

Making her feature debut, writer-director Joy Dietrich, also a Korean
adoptee, introduces audiences to the world of Asian American young
women and delicately addresses the abnormally high rates of depression
and suicide among Asian American girls, creating a work great
compassion and poetic beauty.