Talking to a director immediately after seeing their work is a rare occurrence On November 3rd, 2012 Linda Goldstein Knowlton (The World According to Sesame Street, Whale Rider) took a moment to discuss her outstanding documentary, Somewhere Between, in the lobby of Atlanta’s Landmark Cinema.
Jeremy Uriz: You met a lot of adoptive families in the process (of making and promoting Somewhere Between). Have you noticed any commonalities among them?
Linda Goldstein Knowlton: The commonality is that parents love their children. Outside of that, no. There are some people that want to talk about adoption, there are some people that don’t. There are some people that travel back (to China) and there are some that don’t. There are some that emerge themselves in Chinese language and culture and some don’t. I got a post on Facebook saying “Thank you for making this movie I had never thought of any of these issues.” Like all people, there are a lot of differences. The most important commonality is that they all love their children. That’s the most important.
J: Absolutely. One of the other things I can’t help but notice throughout the film is the undercurrent of gender inequality. As you went through the filmmaking process, did it come to the forefront and did you discuss it (with the girls)?
L: That’s a great question. When I started the film at forty-something, gender inequity, and therefore, the reasons these girls have the lives that they have, was on my mind all the time. My company is called “Ladylike Films”. I think about gender issues a lot. I asked the girls about it and they gave me blank stares. When I was talking to them about it I didn’t realize it is not the place where they are developmentally. It will come up in their twenties, thinking about their place in the world in terms of gender. When I look back on my own life I realize that happened for me in college. I was a girl who played full league and played a lot of “boy sports”. I thought about it but I didn’t “think about it”. In terms of really understanding glass ceiling, gender inequity, and what that does globally, it really came to me in college. They’re not there yet. The ones that are in college are now thinking about it.
J: During the process of the film was there ever a tendency to shift the focus of the film to gender inequality?
L: I knew I wanted this film to be from their points of view. I started out with the same set of questions for everybody. Once the general questions were answered I followed each of them and their own interest. I wanted it to be from their points of view.
J: How has making the film changed your perspective on parenting?
L: Making the film has made me slightly less neurotic. Only slightly (laughs). The big thing is every parent wants to keep their children from feeling pain and discomfort and having hard times. Intellectually we know that we can’t do that, but making this film has made me experience it. To understand that we can’t (always protect them) and that’s ok, and that they will be ok. As long as we are open and talking with them, making them understand that they can come and talk to us about anything. We can’t make them talk to us about anything, but just to be open and have open lines of conversation. Talking about adoption is a normal thing to do, and that there is nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing to be afraid of. They can’t upset us…
J: I loved Halley’s comment during the Q&A, “think about adoption as something that is normal.”
L: That’s the biggest thing. To know that it’s going to ebb and flow. Just because they feel one way on one day when they are fourteen, or for the whole year when they’re fourteen. Like all people, none of us feel the same way when we were fourteen. It’s going to flow and change. So I feel slightly more relaxed.
J: The reactions I’ve seen, at least online, from the adoptive parent community has been overwhelming positive. What about the adoptees? Are you getting much feedback from them? Are they saying “I’m really glad you made this film?”
L: People have been really positive. People have said “I want my friends to see this so they can understand how I feel.” I know that it sparked a lot of conversation. It’s very intense. The reunion scene is very intense and that’s why there is an age advisory. There was a group of young women after the 3:25 showing and they were between the ages of 17 and 19 that came up to me and said “thank you” and “Ruby (Linda’s daughter) is going to be very glad you did this”. The people that have reached out to me have been positive.