Tag Archives: film documentary

our screening event

RedThreadPic

The Invisible Red Thread made me laugh, made me cry, made me more attuned to the disturbing fact that orphaned and abandoned children in this world are far too numerous. On Saturday, June 1st, we screened the film documentary at an event called Honoring One’s Cultural Roots. Twenty-two people attended, including adoptive parents and their adopted children. There were seven adoptees, three were adults.

The documentary was filmed in 2010 by directors Maureen Marovitch and Dr. Changfu Chang and follows two adopted adolescent girls from China who live on opposite sides of the planet. We accompany 15-year old Vivian, who lives with her family in Toronto, Canada, as she and her adoptive father, Hubert, travel back to China to meet Shumin. Shumin, 14 years old at the time of filming, was adopted within China by the Zhu family due to the One Child Policy. Unfortunately, Vivian’s adoptive mother was unable to travel to China with her and her father due to a sudden illness.

The film was about an hour long. I laughed when Shumin introduced Vivian to shopping outdoor market style where many interesting and live foods were being sold, including frogs, snakes, and all kinds of seafood. We watched Vivian squirm as she walked with Shumin up and down the aisles of the market holding her nose. On the flip side, Vivian took Shumin and her family to the city, which Shumin had never visited before. Shumin used a fork and ate toast and jelly for the first time. Watching Shumin’s facial expressions as Vivian showed her how a toaster worked was priceless. Vivian pondered what life would have been like for her in China had she not been adopted.

We also met Shumin’s birth parents, as well as another birth mother who was searching for the daughter she gave away in hopes that Vivian might be her daughter. This adoptive mother was obviously feeling so many emotions as the filmmakers documented her story. Vivian was not her daughter. Without fail, whenever I see the pain a birth parent feels due to the relinquishment of his/her child, I’m deeply saddened.

After the film, therapist, Stephanie Withrow, facilitated a discussion with those who were able to stay. One of the highlights of the discussion was how international adoption has evolved since it first became “popular” in the U.S. after the Korean War. One parent pointed out that because much has been learned about international/transracial adoption over the years, adoptive parents are more informed and educated about the challenges of raising an internationally and transracially adopted child. It’s possible that adoptees today may even experience fewer problems with identity and race because adoptive parents are more sensitive to these issues, facilitate an open dialogue with their adopted children, and seek opportunities to help their child develop a healthy sense of identity. I think more research is needed to demonstrate how changes in international adoption over the past few decades may affect adoptees and their families compared to previous decades. Finally, Dalena Watson prepared some information on homeland tour agencies for families interested in perhaps planning a trip one day to their adopted child’s birth country.

As a final note, I wanted to again thank all those who came out and spent the afternoon with us. It was a pleasure to meet all of you and your families. Your thoughts and comments are invaluable, and we hope to continue hosting community adoption events that you’ll be interested in attending.

honoring one’s cultural roots: the invisible red thread

TheInvisibleRedThreadSome 8,668 children were adopted into U.S. families from abroad in the 2012 fiscal year; 105 international adoptions took place right here in Arizona (U.S. Dept. of State, 2013). Although declining in number since 2004, intercountry adoption is still prevalent throughout the U.S. and is so often misconceived. One of the most complicated areas of transracial adoption is the development of identity. I read somewhere recently that identity is defined both by what one is and what one is not. Identity is affected by all members of the adoption triad. Adoptees who are born into one family, a family who will probably remain nameless to them, lose an identity then borrow one from the adopting family. Birthparents are parents and yet are not. Adoptive parents who were not parents suddenly become parents. Adoption, for some adoptees, precludes a complete or integrated sense of self. Adoptees may experience themselves as incomplete, deficient, or unfinished, or may lack feelings of well-being, integration, or solidity associated with a fully developed identity. We often lack medical, genetic, religious, and historical information and may be plagued by questions such as: Who am I? Was I merely a mistake, or an accident? Why was I relinquished? Do my birthparents ever think of me? This lack of identity may lead adoptees, particularly in adolescent years, to seek out ways to belong in more extreme ways than many of their non-adopted peers. Furthermore, adoptees may wish to search for their birthfamily or reconnect with their birth country.

To honor the cultural roots of an adoptee is a necessity. We must make every effort to help adoptees develop a strong sense of identity, to help them navigate through the process of identity development, to maintain the cultural connection to an adoptee’s birth country. This can be difficult, as we know that the tendency to assimilate to the predominant culture is strong (although having a parent of the same ethnic background or who speaks the language of the country from which the adoptee was born lessens the cultural disconnect).

In an attempt to address these needs, we are hosting an event, Honoring One’s Cultural Roots, on Saturday, June 1st. We will screen the film documentary, The Invisible Red Thread, written and directed by Maureen Marovitch of Picture This Productions in Montreal, which I’m very excited to see. Following the movie, Stephanie Withrow, M.S., LPC, will facilitate a discussion as we explore the intersection of adoption, culture and identity and what it means to honor one’s cultural roots. Stephanie and her husband have three adopted children from China. The event is for the whole family, although the film is recommended for children 10 and older. Admission is $10/person; children under 12 receive free admission. Reservations and pre-payment are also required. To make reservations, please contact Mj Nguyen at mjnguyen7@cox.net. For all the details, click on the The Invisible Red Thread- An AZ Premier link located above.

The Honoring One’s Cultural Roots event will be held at The Chandler Public Library, 22 S. Delaware Street, Chandler, AZ 85225, in the Copper Room (2nd level). Please join us for what I think will be a memorable and exciting event! I hope that many will leave feeling a greater sense of community and understanding the importance of honoring adoptees’ cultural roots. Please see the Honoring One’s Cultural Roots facebook page. Screening of The Invisible Red Thread is made possible through Picture This Productions of Montreal, QC (Canada).

post-adoption services

adoption

I’ve been meeting with a couple of colleagues who both have adopted children from China. One also has an adopted son from Korea. Both of my colleagues are licensed professional counselors, and one specializes in working with families with adopted children. Their own children are in middle childhood. We’ve been discussing and making plans to develop adoption programming for adoptive parents in our area targeting the Fall for some kind of event. Interestingly, in fiscal year 2012, Arizona had an estimated 105 adoptions from abroad (U.S. Department of State). We’ve also talked about our own individual stories and experiences in adoption, me obviously from an adoptee’s perspective, and my colleagues from the perspective of adoptive parents. We all agree that adoption is a fundamental, life-altering event for all triad members that can lead to both great joy and tremendous pain. I believe that most agencies do a great job of connecting families with children who need a family. However, not many prepare families for the unexpected issues that arise post-adoption—an adopted child not wanting to be touched or showing signs of reactive attachment disorder (RAD), or experiencing sensory issues, and how to cope with such issues.

My colleagues have spoken about the challenges of raising their own adopted children and how the effects of institutionalization and maternal separation have impacted them emotionally, psychologically and physically. Like many other adoptive parents, they feel that there is a lack of meaningful support and post-adoption services following adoption and that risk factors are not always properly understood or disclosed by adoption service providers to adoptive families. One of my colleagues talked of all the pictures of happy smiling adoptable Korean children displayed on the walls of her adoption agency. She felt that this elicited a picture that everything is wonderful and happy in adoption, a somewhat misleading picture. My other colleague felt that her agency did discuss the risk factors of international adoption, however, very often adoptive parents are so excited about adopting that they tune these issues out only later to discover the very complex nature of raising an internationally adopted child.

After our meeting the other day, my colleagues and I came to an agreement that we all had very different goals for developing adoption programming. We decided that before planning any big event, we should proceed with developing a post-adoption needs survey for adoptive parents to assess what the needs are, something already in the works. What do adoptive parents need? What kinds of services and programming would be most helpful? We also talked about hosting another screening of a film documentary, possibly The Invisible Red Thread, or Wo Ai Ni Mommy  (I Love You Mommy) on transracial adoption, an event that would require a little less planning, yet provide a forum for discussion and interaction. The needs surveys would also be available for families to complete. In January, we held a screening for the documentary, Somewhere Between, in Phoenix. Many adoptive families attended, but, unfortunately, some were unable to because the screening sold out. I am cautiously optimistic that another such screening would draw a crowd of adoptees and adoptive families. What I found exciting about our Somewhere Between screening was meeting adoptive families and adoptees in Arizona and building a sense of community.

If you live in Arizona, I would love to hear from you about a forthcoming screening of either The Invisible Red Thread or Wo Ai Ni Mommy (which was aired on PBS in 2010 as part of a documentary series on transracial adoption). Let me know what your thoughts are regarding post-adoption services, support groups, community building or anything else on international adoption. If you aren’t in Arizona, still please feel free to comment. You can comment on this post, or reach me directly by email at mjnguyen7@cox.net.

 

film captures taiwan’s past and present

Almost HomeLast year I met Victoria Linchong at the North American Taiwanese Women’s Association (NATWA II) Annual Convention. Victoria is a Taiwanese-American actress, writer, producer and director working in both theater and film. Her feature directorial debut, Almost Home: Taiwanis currently in post-production. Almost Home was inspired by a 2008 family road trip back to Taiwan. Victoria recently held a successful campaign via Indiegogo where she raised over $5,000 to complete the production of the film. She was also featured in Asian Cinevision’s Cinema Spotlight last December where she discussed her film, as well as her journey as an actor, entrepreneur, and filmmaker. Almost Home: Taiwan is a feature-length documentary that examines the legacy of political repression and the emergence of Taiwanese identity and independence through a family union that takes place after 22 years. In the documentary, Victoria returns to Taiwan with her family searching for long-lost connections. She becomes re-acquainted with the unique culture of the island and its beauty. Bridging the deeply personal and globally political, Almost Home clarifies the controversies surrounding Taiwan, while introducing viewers to Taiwanese culture via raucous night markets, aboriginal festivals, saint trees, and kissing fish.

When I attended the NATWA II Convention last year, I had just returned from reuniting with my birthfamily in Taipei. I knew very little of Taiwan’s history. Victoria helped give me a better understanding of Taiwan’s political past, something you don’t learn about in the textbooks! I look forward to seeing the film and understanding more of Taiwan’s political past and how it’s shaped the country it is now. Currently, Victoria is busy with another production, Big Flower Eater, which she also wrote and stars in. Big Flower Eater is a whimsical collage of folktale, ritual, dance, and historical text that explores the untold history of women in Asia through shamanism in three different cultures: Hmong, Korean, and Taiwanese. It premiered February 7th on stage in New York City. Break a leg, Victoria!

For a snippet of Almost Home: Taiwan, please watch the trailer below:

Please stop by and read Victoria’s interview at Cinevision in full at this link. It’s super interesting! Also visit and like the Almost Home: Taiwan facebook page here.