Sunday, February 28, 2010

Going Home

I know it seems like this blog has turned into !! All Adoption Videos !! All The Time !! lately, but honestly it's just because there are so many films to write about. Also, it's lazy blogging. Embedding a YouTube clip is easy. And I'm busy, dammit!

So, here's the latest, a film I've written about before and finally got a chance to see today. I had very much wanted to see it when it played at the Rhode Island International Film Festival last August, but I was still recuperating from the Philly protest.

Also be forewarned, I suck at film reviews. Actually I don't even review them. I just totally personalize films to my own life. If you want a serious review of this film, head on over to Sang-Shil Kim's place -- she's got a great one posted and a good discussion going on in comments too. This blog post, it's going to jump all over the place and be shamelessly self-referential. Although I have to say when I came home tonight and pulled out the notes I had scribbled down in the movie theater, many of the points I wrote were items she had noted too. I had forgotten her review when I was there, and it was kinda cool to see many items had the same impact on me when I went back to read hers tonight.

The film, which seriously needs more attention in adoptionville, is

Directed by Jason Hoffman.
Produced by Mikyung Kim

Lazy blogging trailer spot here:










Equally lazy cut and past synopsis follows:

A 21 year-old Korean adoptee, Jason Hoffmann, was raised Jewish in New York City. This documentary about family, love, and bloodlines exposes the challenges and triumphs of locating Jason's roots and birth family in Korea.

As a child, Jason barely expressed any interest in his Korean heritage. But as he grew into a young adult, he became more curious. Jason summons up the courage to initiate contact with his birth mother, and without knowing whether face-to-face meetings are even possible, he takes a chance and travels to Seoul.

Jason can only hope to meet his birth mother, father and his 23 year old sister. According to documents from the adoption agency, neither his father or sister even know that he exists. With the documentary's producer/his girlfriend, Jason undertakes a life-changing journey in a foreign culture full of uncertainties and surprises to discover the meaning of family.



This is a really really important film for a number of reasons, one being the ages of the director and the producer -- 21. Yeah, 21. This is an incredibly hardcore serious tear your heart out production  done by people who, when I was their age, damn, I was a hot mess. I found myself during the entire film doing a compare and contrast of my own adoption journey (or lack thereof) at the same age.

Like this ---


Age 20: De-fog. Get a call from someone at Adoption Forum of PA (now defunct) telling me to get my ass in gear because soon I may not be able to get my birth certificate. Action taken: nothing.

Age 21: Finally decide to get my ass in gear and get my birth certificate. Discover that haha joke's on me, now I can't get it because the records sealed. Oops. Action taken:  Re-fog for 4 years.

I just kept wondering how many years of grief and aggravation I could have spared myself if I had been a little more with-it, a little more motivated, a little less lazy.

But anyway.

Seeing a real adoption film in a real movie theater was a first for me. There's nary an adoption documentary I haven't seen yet, but so far every one has either been in the privacy of my home or in the presence of other adoptees in one of their homes. Seeing a film like this on the big screen is an entirely different experience -- the darkness of the theater, the hypnotizing effect of the big screen, and -- WTF - the reaction of other moviegoers.

Yeah, the reaction.

I must confess, it irritated me. OK granted the theater did not seem to have a large population of we shiny special chosen ones in attendance, so the nonadopted experience and take on things is obviously going to be different than an all-adoptee audience, but there were times I found myself mightily  agast at what people were laughing at. I felt the scenes where Jason was struggling with language to be almost unbearable to watch, and yet these got laughs from the audience.

Erg. Not cool.

Also the opening and closing scenes were a nursery with infants. Disassociate in 3... 2.... 1. Scenes like these I find horribly triggering. A sea of babies in an orphanage represents to me despair, hopelessness, economic injustice and a sea of tears, yet this got a uniformed "awwww" from the attendees. Yikes. There were other really emotionally fragile parts during the film that got laughs from the audience, which seriously made me doubt deeply the empathy of the American public, or at least the New York film festival-attending population. Thankfully there were a few other adoptees in the audience I was able to speak with briefly after the film who noted as well how uncomfortable the laughing made them.

The film has been shown so far at a number of festivals, but where it really needs attention is a round of adoption conference circuits. Barb Lee's "Adopted" has been shown at all of them, and it would be very interesting to do a back to back with "Going Home" and "Adopted".  Now, I'll preface the next part by saying it's completely not fair to take tiny snips of someone's appearance in an adoption documentary and do a complete judgment on them.

But I'll do it anyway 'cause I'm shallow like that. For karma payback, check out my fat ass on either one of documentaries filmed last summer in Philly and judge away.

As I was saying, I think it would be great to compare these two, especially the reactions and responses on the part of the adoptive parents portrayed in the film. I very much appreciated something Sang-Shil wrote, where Jason's adoptive father took the time to actually ASK him what he wanted their role to be in all of this. Also something I found to be very gentle was during the scene where Jason learns his original mother's name, there's a brief glimpse of his adoptive mother watching him for his reaction, as opposed to the tensed-shoulders, locked-jaw, bug-eyed insecurity or outright dismissal that other adoptees have had to endure at the mercy of their adoptive parents when discussing adoption. Case in point.

It's no secret I've had a real fondness for this film, going back to when it was in production. The trailer on YouTube was one of the first adoption videos I came across when I started collecting them and I was just knocked over at the idea of someone so young - my own son's age! - traveling to Korea on an adoption search. I mean, I was well into middle age when I finally got up enough guts to go home to just Philly, for crying out loud -- the idea of an overseas search was just too emotionally exhausting for me. And also, for you adoption bloggers who've been around for a bit, there's this picture from the Korean Quarterly in Spring 2009. When I saw that picture, right away I thought: Julia

Above all, what I loved best about this film is something I'm struggling with getting the right words down about, but it boils down to a unity even in disagreement, and the commonality of the going home experience in all our diversity as adoptees. And by diverse, I'm not only speaking of the difference between domestic and transracial/international adoptions, but the view of adoption itself. If you read over this here old blog, and compare it to the blog at Third Cat Productions, what's apparent (at least to me) are two extremely different views on adoption. Jason has been quoted as saying he wanted to create a film that would be a "celebration of adoption".... whereas, oh friends, this blog is anything but.

And yet.

There was nothing in this film I didn't relate to. Take away the added loss of the language barrier, the journey in Korea was just about step for step my own experiences in Philadelphia. Definitely I cried just as much as he did. I left my own prayers and written wishes for my mother. I wondered if anyone had prayed for me. I wondered if any other prayer candles were burning for someone else's faceless mother. I cried in Philadelphia, and I cried in the movie theater this afternoon because it made me think of Philadelphia.

While his trip resulted in a reunion,  what meant the most to me was the portrayal of that elusive ghost land  of the original home. Reunited or not, that brief time when adoptees can consciously walk in the place where we know we are from and we know who we are -- that fragile moment when search is over but reunion has not yet happened --  is a sacred space that isn't captured in many adoption books and films. This one does.

A few final production notes on items I appreciated. The music is absolutely perfect. The film jumps forwards and backwards in time and location at moments, which is something I find particularly appealing in a film about an adoptee, as our own timeline is so fluid. Those of us who lack a coherent birth story, whose lives often appear to begin at our moment of adoption rather than birth,  live  in many places and times at once.

I also appreciated on a number of different levels that the actual moment of reunion was a blackout. If Jason's mother had appeared on the film, I know the only item I would have been focusing on would have been immediately searching for any physical resemblances as opposed to really being present with her words and tone. Being in the dark allowed me to connect with her in an intimate way that if I had actually seen her face at that moment, I don't believe I would have been able to.

You really want to see this. You want to keep an eye on the blog or the fan page or the mailing list, and buy a copy when it comes out on DVD.

I don't see this film as a celebration of adoption.  The breakup of a family is tragedy personified, and I view nothing to be as emotionally violent as separating a loving mother from her newborn. I saw pure grief, I heard bottomless loss in his mother's voice, I saw an older sister who was filled with a bemused love she couldn't understand and didn't even feel entitled to (when she first meets him she says something along the lines of, "I shouldn't be crying but I am"). Also, hopeless romantic that I am, I saw a very beautiful love story.  I do know how many of us are denied a connected partner during our most emotionally vulnerable time. When Jason's first mother says to him that she's glad he has a girlfriend the audience laughed, but I didn't. I heard what she was saying, at least I heard what I as a mother would have felt. She wasn't glad he had a girlfriend there, she was glad he had Mikyung.

But still that's the thing I loved so much about this. While as an audience we all bring our own viewpoints into whatever documentary we see on whatever subject,  I could take away an entirely different view on what the director originally intended, and still experience a film I connected with. I didn't see it as a celebration of adoption. I saw it as a celebration of an adoptee.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Overbrook Brothers

So... you know how you reach that critical mass with adoption, and you think, "Damn. I've just reached a critical mass with adoption. Golly, I'd sure like to watch a light-hearted comedy that has absolutely nothing to do with adoption. Say there, I wonder what new films are on-demand this month?"

And you know, every time you've reached critical adoption capacity, and you just want to watch something funny, for chrissakes, chances are near perfect whatever you pick will be entirely adoption related.

I was far too critical last night to order it, but once my mass reduces, I'm going to watch this. Anyone see it yet?








It actually looks funny.

Official site: The Overbook Brothers

This is interesting:

Here's a snip from an interview with one of the writers....

"The first seed of it all came from when [co-writer] Jason Foxworth and I were driving through the desert in Palm Springs and talking about our families. We decided we should do a family-type story, and I had an idea that came from something that happened to me when I was 4 years old: My brother had convinced me that I was adopted. I was crying, and I remember my mom was trying to console me, but my dad was across the room laughing. He thought it was funny, but, I mean, I was traumatized by the whole thing. So Jason and I thought, well, what if we took that idea, this dynamic, but made the brothers as being in a state of complete arrested development in their 30s? And then we went off and did a short ['Momma's Boy'] based on that."

Added to that was the fact that Bryant's girlfriend had been searching for her biological parents in real life for years, a quest that, as Bryant recalls, ended up becoming "a pretty frustrating experience."


 I always find it fascinating when real kids talk about being traumatized by the idea of adoption.... but we're actually not supposed to be. We're emotionally crippled, bitter, angry trolls and should just get over it.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Partners of Adoptees

Sooo.... almost a month without a post.

Wow. Time flies when you're having fun.

Anyway, here's a brief update before I get to the purpose of posting. Me - nothing yet, although I've had some interesting interviews and I'm loving the transitional services professional counseling program thingy that I got as a termination benefit. As an added bonus it appears I got some type of "don't hate us for dumping you, we're giving you the red carpet treatment" package that some of my fellow unemployeds don't seem to have. Now doesn't that make me feel so special? But it's working, because after my first resume makeover, I immediately started getting callbacks.

The thing about being unemployed is, damn it's hard work. I was talking with a very good friend (and keep this very good friend phrase in mind, because she features highly in upcoming paragraphs and the title of this blog post. Stay tuned.) about this, as she went through a period of unemployment herself a number of years ago. Just sending out four resumes in a day is, like, almost a full day's work, by the time I'm finished outright lieing tweaking my resume exaggerating my accomplishments matching my impressive skill set to the job specifications.

And it's brutal out there, I tell you. One of my fellow unemployeds was saying he just had his 13th interview with the same company, and they are getting ready to schedule the 14th. No lie. The fact that they need 14 interviews to make a decision shows how badly organized this company is and could really use a project manager to, say, streamline their hiring process at a minimum, perhaps?

In somewhat better news, Dr. Ungrateful has left the ranks of the unemployed and begins work March 1st on his maiden voyage into uncharted territory for him - a college professor appointment. Wish him luck although he doesn't need it because he's brilliant and all that, but it is a new career path for him so he's feeling all vulnerable and shit although I'm not supposed to be able to tell that.

But, but, but, Theresa, I hear you saying, why is this only "somewhat better news"? I'll tell you, constant reader, it's because this position is in a fucking other state. And not even one that touches New York. And not even one that touches a state that touches New York. And not even one that touches a state that touches a state that touches New York either. So, with the added expense of maintaining two households, flights to visit each other are going to be few and far between. Now he's still looking  and will continue to look for a contract in New York for when this appointment ends so he will be coming back, but that doesn't improve my mood one bit.

See, the thing about bastids like me is, we just can't stand it when partners leave us for any reason whatsoever. Now, if I have to leave, like traveling for work during my last job, or say, spending a week in Louisville or Philadelphia for an adoptee rights demonstration, well, that's OK. But not the other way around. Hypocritical? Yes but so the fuck what? When the first love of your life abandons you in a hospital nursery, you're allowed a certain leeway in regards to a somewhat, shall we say, overreaction and over sensitivity to being left. 


So.


Stony faced silence and slight dissociation during any talk of relocation? Check

Sudden unavailability to help with any type of packing? Check.

Too emotional to help pick out an apartment? Check.

Imagining the same disaster scenarios from when he left for his family reunion in 2007? Check.

Now he's taking it all in stride because he's all empathetic and cool like that, but I know that being married to an adoptee or being the partner of an adoptee can sometimes be drag for real kids who never knew what it was like to be left by the one person who is supposed to love you above everything else. And I'd be lieing if I said we haven't had our own tough times with this.

Remember this blog?   I always wonder what happened to her. I think about her sometimes; she seemed like a really nice person.


And look at this nice person over at Yahoo Answers. She finds her fiance's mother but can't understand why he won't bring her to the reunion.


Real kid partners have nothing to prepare them for the way adoption can overtake a relationship. They probably never even thought anything about adoption, and if it came up it was in the pretense of  adoption was all sunshine and rainbows and oh, maybe it will be a little sad but you can always go on TV and have a reunion and everybody lives happily ever after.

TV reunions don't show when your mother rejects you, or keeps you a secret, or writes you a letter saying what she sent all "her grandkids" for xmas, and your kid didn't even get a card from her. TV reunions don't show the fact that an adoptee may even get a reunion, isn't a secret, and mom considers your kids her grandkids too, but the adoptee is still treated like shit by the state they were born in, and can't get their birth certificate. TV reunions don't show that adoption can really suck the life out of a person and push a relationship into low priority.




This brings me back to that very good friend I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. She's a cool real kid I met at the Philadelphia Adoptee Rights Demonstration who is in the ranks of the adoption collateral damage known as married to an adoptee. And she's awesome and amazing. I've been around long enough to hear stories of partners of adoptees who can be real selfish douchebags when it comes to a de-fogged adoptee's sudden preoccupation with all things adoption, but, on the other hand, I've also seen partners who really step up and are wonderful. She's all that and then some. She's front and center when it comes to adoptee rights and when she sees a need for something, she doesn't wait for someone else to do it. 


So, seeing that there wasn't any type of online support for anyone who was married to an adoptee, or the partner of an adoptee, she made her own group. It's brand  spanking new and she's still setting it up, but I'd be quite grateful if you could spread the word about it and share the link to the group around in all the usual places






I hope to be blogging again on a somewhat regular basis or a reasonable facsimile thereof sometime soon. Hold a good though, but I must go now. I've wasted enough time blogging this morning, and Dr. Ungrateful wants me to look at pictures of his new apartment, but I've suddenly found a million things around the house that need my attention.....

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