Directed by Barb Lee
Featuring: Jennifer Faro, John, Jacqui, and Roma XinPei Trainer
Korean adoptee Jennifer Faro struggles with her identity while her mother’s inevitable passing due to brain cancer looms. Meanwhile John and Jacqui Trainer turn to international adoption when fertility treatments are ineffective. First time director Barb Lee and producer Nancy Kim Parsons weave the stories together to make a captivating, moving, and informative documentary.
If you’ve adopted transracially see this movie. I could stop there and hope my plea would lead to action. But I’m not that naive. So… I will share some observations about “Adopted”, focusing exclusively on Jennifer Faro. Roughly a third of the film follows the Trainer family as they wait for a child match through their trip to China and life back in the states with the adorable Roma XinPei.
Jennifer Faro is Korean. It is her heritage by birth. It is in her eyes, her skin, her hair. Everyone sees it. Except the couple who adopted her. Jennifer’s parents see their daughter as one of them, her Korean-ness could be expunged by in their minds leaving only their daughter. This view creates a chasm that Jennifer (and only Jennifer) struggles to bridge throughout the course of the film.
Jennifer’s unfailing attempts to connect with her parents create a heart wrenching tension that builds throughout the film. The kind of tension you have when there’s something big to discuss with a loved one. The kind of discussion that becomes a crossroad in a relationship. The kind that, amazingly enough, the Faro family allowed to be filmed, on several occasions. I couldn’t help but feel like an intruder as Jennifer brought up her birth.
Judy Fero: I appreciate that she (Jennifer’s birth mother) gave you up and I appreciate that I have you but as far as anything else I don’t care about her.
Jennifer Fero: I wish you did because I’m part of her. I have her face. I might have her eyes. I mean the biggest invisible privilege among birth families is that they look like each other. That is a powerful validation. Why do you think I need so much validation? I don’t see it when I look in the mirror.
Judy Fero: I want you all to myself.
Jennifer Fero: You’ll actually get more of me if you imagine I was connected to someone else at one time.
More of me.
Who we are. Identity. A universal question brought into focus through the lens of a single life. Due to events outside of her control, a family on the other side of the Pacific adopted Jennifer. And by loving her, by raising her, by making her a Faro, Jennifer’s identity became cloudy.
Some may ask “how could she talk to her mother like that, a woman who loves her so much?” I would ask “How could Jennifer not talk to her like that?” Do we express our love through sheltering our deepest hopes and fears or through vulnerability in opening up? It’s Jennifer’s attempt to make that connection with her mother and father that shows how much she cares.
“If my family acknowledges my identity then I know they adopted me, not an idea”
Adoption starts as an idea. The idea of a person. The idea that a person can be grafted into a family. The idea that by joining a new family a synthesis will take occur. Did I think about the birth family of our daughter before we brought her into our home and called her daughter? No. Because she was not a person I could relate to until she was in front of me, in my arms. To us her life consisted of medical updates and fewer pictures of her than I take with my iPhone in a day.
“Adopted” made me think about what it means to love another person. It reminded me of what a momentous decision it was to bring Penelope into our lives. Not for us. For her.
Why is this film so important to me? Because I consider it my responsibility to understand, as best I can, what my daughter may/will experience by listening to the voices of transracial and international adoptees. The movie is a powerful voice in the adoptee’s chorus. To the creators and participants in this feature I offer my sincerest thanks for opening up your lives to so many.
To see the movie go to WatchAdopteeFilms.com and fork over $4.99. The only regret I had after spending the money is it could have been put toward the DVD’s $59.99 asking price.