I was talking to my friend, Kathy, today about the Phoenix screening of Somewhere Between, directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton (the one I’ve been plugging for the last month!). Last Thursday evening, adoptive families, friends, and members of the community joined us for the feature length documentary. It was such a wonderful event in many ways. Kathy and her husband, Dave, adopted a little girl from China at the age of 15 months five years ago. Jade is now six. She has such an infectious personality that all who meet her cannot help but fall in love with her. Kathy and I talked about the film for over an hour and its implications for adoptive families, adoptees, and international adoption in general. I thought about how international, or inter-country adoption has changed from the time I was adopted, an era when adoptive parents did not talk to their kids much about their adoption or birth culture.
I was so happy that our screening sold out, which means that there is a thriving community in Phoenix of those interested in international adoption. I was worried that we would not meet the threshold set by Tugg, Inc. to secure the Phoenix screening, but as it turns out, there weren’t enough tickets. Over half of the audience was adoptive families, including four teen adoptees from China, Kyndra, Hannah, Kiara, and Cassandra. One family I met is in the process of adopting a little girl from Taiwan and currently awaiting finalization. Of special mention, the mother-in-law of director, Linda Goldstein-Knowlton, who lives in the Phoenix area, was a member of the audience. Mrs. Knowlton was accompanied by her daughter and other extended family members. It was very cool to see so many adoptive families and to have many personal friends come out to support the film – big thanks to Maria, Kathy, Diane, and Ted!
For me, the film did exactly what the director hoped it would. In the words of Linda Goldstein Knowlton:
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.
One of the most poignant segments of the film was Haley’s reunion with her birthfamily in China. SPOILER ALERT! I found it heart wrenching to watch the emotional reaction of Haley’s biological father upon their reunion. He was obviously happy that she had found him, yet guilt and remorse over her abandonment was painfully evident. Haley’s biological mother, due to financial distress, surrendered her without telling anyone, including Haley’s biological father. Haley’s reunion with her biological mother was equally painful. The difficulty her biological father had in relinquishing her yet again at the end of their reunion that just about broke my heart. Likewise, I was moved by Run-yi’s story, another little girl with cerebral palsy whose adoption was partially documented. As she realized time drew closer for her departure, which meant leaving everything familiar to her in China, she cried inconsolably. In an attempt to comfort her, her new adoptive mother wrapped her up in her arms, but she was a complete stranger to Run-yi. It confirmed that, although adoption is often framed as “growing families” and “one of the most loving things to do,” there is grief and loss that accompanies it, and it’s felt not only by the child separated from his/her birthmother/father and environment, but by the birthparents who are often forced to relinquish them due to desperate circumstances. We see just how very vulnerable the adopted child is, as well as the birth parent(s).
I very much enjoyed the film. I thought that the four teen girls, Fang, Jenna, Haley, and Ann, whose stories we follow were very thoughtful and wise in understanding where they are in life considering their identity, family, and being adopted. They demonstrate a maturity that is impressive and perhaps beyond that of kids their own ages, as they’ve had to grapple with issues like identity and belonging that other kids take for granted. It would be interesting to see how they continue to mature at different developmental stages.
Following the screening, we had a discussion. It was a great forum in which to hear from many adoptive parents who shared information and experiences. I felt a real sense of community and support amongst everyone there. Thanks to all who came out to see the film. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with many of you. And finally, thanks to Tugg for making our screening possible. I do hope that we will have more opportunities to come together as a community in the future. Please keep in touch!
(Note: If I got your name wrong or misspelled it, please contact me and I’ll correct it!)