Adopted: a view of the movie

One of the high points of this year’s KAAN conference was a showing of the file Adopted. Adopted’s website says this about the film:

Adopted reveals the grit rather than the glamour of transracial adoption. First-time director Barb Lee goes deep into the intimate lives of two well-meaning families and shows us the subtle challenges they face. One family is just beginning the process of adopting a baby from China and is filled with hope and possibility. The other family’s adopted Korean daughter is now 32 years old. Prompted by her adoptive mother’s terminal illness, she tries to create the bond they never had. The results are riveting, unpredictable and telling. While the two families are at opposite ends of the journey, their stories converge to show us that love isn’t always enough.
Ms. Lee, with Co-Producer Nancy Kim Parsons and others, weaves the stories of two families, the west coast Feros and east coast Trainers, and into a moving portrayal of adoption's paradox. The stories could be those of a single family working its way through the challenges that come at different points along the way. I saw my pre-adoption self in the Trainers, who were in the early stages of the adoption process. We watch them experience their homestudy, the acceptance of a little girl from China, travel to China to meet and return with their daughter, and the first few months of their lives back in the States. Their joy brought back a lot of beautiful memories from my children’s arrivals and first years with us. But when adoptive mom Jacqueline Trainer comments not long after their return that daughter Roma did all her grieving on the plane, I winced. I remember thinking similar thoughts when my children first arrived, back when love could conquer all.

Jennifer Fero’s struggle for recognition and self-defined identity is nothing short of heroic. Her family is extremely close, and at during filming was preparing for the death of Jennifer’s adoptive mother, Judy, from cancer. In one poignant scene, Jennifer explains how important it is to her for Judy to validate her Korean family. Judy responds that she wants Jennifer all to herself. The scene ends with mother and daughter visibly distraught, and with viewers sharing the hopelessness conveyed by their pain.

Similar moments throughout the movie brought me back in time or propelled me into the future. The Trainers are my past – hopeful, joyful, full of love for the child they now call their own. Jennifer, however, turns my eyes to the future. Her story is a cautionary tale that reminds me how deeply we are defined by our genetic and ethnic heritage. When deprived of them, we cannot thrive.

More about adoption and the film on the Adopted blog.


cynthia said…
it sounds amazing- any idea where the rest of us can see it??
Margie said…
Hi, Cynthia. I think distribution plans are underway right now, so hopefully there will be announcements about that soon. At the KAAN conference, the director and team had sign-up sheets for those interested in receiving the distribution information, but I haven't seen anything yet. As soon as I find something, I'll post it.
Yoli said…
I just bought the film. It hurt me so much to see Jennifer in so much pain and the parents totally unable to relate to any of it. I have been watching snipets of it on youtube.
thank you. I am an adoptive mom to a daughter born in China. I too winced at the Trainers comments about their daughter doing all her grieving in China, as well as saying their daughter never cried and was a perfect baby, too perfect I would bet. My daughter, seven, is seeing a trauma/attachment/adoption therapist and so is her family. We had to learn how to parent the adopted child whose beginnings were very filled with deep losses and traumas. We had to see life through her eyes. We had to enter into her pain and help her carry this burden as a family, and that took outside help for us. I believe every, yes every, adoptive family and pre-adoptive family should see this film. Thank you for blogging about Adopted.
Anonymous said…
I saw Adopted today at at Pact educational event. Powerful! I highly recommend this film.
robin said…
I watched the movie last night with 4 other adoptive (China and Vietnam) parents. Our children range in age from 5 to 14. We were overwhelmingly confused by the movie. Exactly what point about adoption Ms Lee's was trying to make escaped us. If she had started with Jennifer going to rehab and worked backwards that would have made more sense. Watching Jennifer beat her dying parents up was so selfishly self serving. I have to believe that Jennifer is NOT representative of adult adoptees and that Ms Lee had some kind of agenda to make the movie more salacious perhaps. The Trainors were like all of us,..full of hope and optimism for their little girl. I don't think it is fair to judge them for being a little clueless after only two months. They will have their issues as Roma begins to learn about her early history.
I did take away the clear message from Jennifer Fero that celebrating the adoption of our children does also mean we celebrate their abandonment. That really was a harsh reality to hear her say outloud. That was a valuable take home message from the film, One of the few.
Gabi532 said…
As an international adoptee, I completely understand whee she was coming from. Her parents had been in denial about her adoption & ethnicity,and their deaths were 'the icing on the cake!'

Although my adoptive parents are NOT like this, I do share many similar feelings with Ms. Fero. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed and discussed.

Thank you Barb Lee and Jennifer Fero.
Rick in Texas said…
A very powerful but oddly confusing movie at times, overall the movie's message and storytelling is not very good. I'm still very perplexed by Jennifer's behavior and beliefs. Granted, I was not adopted from Korea into an American family so I'll give her that much understanding. Being born in Korea but growing up in Kansas where besides my younger brother, I was the only Asian in grade school to high school. I also grew up feeling like a total outsider, taunted for being different, and wanting to be "white" in my early years. I am sympathetic to a point, but Jennifer has way too many issues to be a very compelling person for this story. I'll take the high road, and wish her the best of luck in her rehab but more importantly "you" (jennifer) will have to fix yourself. No external force, person, deity, whatever will do that for you. Your parents loved you and did their best even with their flaws and shortcomings. Jennifer, you are a beautiful person inside and outside. I hope someday you grow comfortable with living inside of your "skin".

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