Film Review by Kam Williams
Adoption Documentary Traces Four Teens’ Chinese Roots
When the People’s Republic of China implemented its one child policy in 1979, it was suddenly open season on female infants, given the misogynistic nation’s cultural preference for boys. That development dovetailed nicely with the increased demand for babies in the U.S. where working women often put off procreation until it’s too late for them to have kids.
Forced to face up to their infertility, thousands of childless middle-agers flocked to Asia to adopt, a place where girls are a dime a dozen, given that families allowed only a single child are eager to dispose of their fairer sex rejects. While this arrangement met the diametrically opposed needs of the adoptive American and biological Chinese parents, not many of the participants in intercontinental human trafficking ever bothered to pause to wonder what effect it might have on a yellow child from a Communist dictatorship to be raised by white folks in a capitalist country located half a world away from their birthplace.
However, that question did occur to film director Linda Goldstein Knowlton when she decided to adopt an Asian toddler of her own. She wanted to know the unanticipated pitfalls, long-term, associated with what she was getting into. How would little Ruby react to racism and looking different? Would the kid grow up to be a resentful time bomb curious about her first pair of parents or would she merely make a smooth adjustment to America and enter the ranks of the so-called Model Minority?
To get some answers, Knowlton decided to follow four teenagers around with a camera, asking them probing questions about what their lives have been like since being adopted. And the net result of that effort is Somewhere Between, a heartbreaking biopic which, as one might guess from the title, shows its subjects to be little lost souls who have each made peace with living in a lonely limbo not of their own making.
They describe themselves as “Bananas” or “Twinkies,” a play on the term Oreo used for some blacks, because they’re yellow on the outside but white on the inside. And I can’t say that I blame them.
When 13 year-old Haley devoted her summer vacation to tracing her roots, she schlepped herself all the way to the remote peasant village in a remote region of rural China where the records said she was born. But her own mother couldn’t be bothered to take a day off from work to say “Hi!” or better yet to apologize for having abandoned her as a helpless infant.
However, the sperm donor did submit to a DNA test, which only confirmed that, yes, this was the gene pool from which Haley had sprung. Talk about a Hello Muddah-Hello Fadduh- level letdown.
Listen, even people in the States are generally underwhelmed when they track down their biological parents. Just watch any episode of that Maury Povich paternity test reality show.
After all, it generally isn’t exactly the cream of humanity, or of any species for that matter, that refuses to nurture their own flesh and blood. Still, those parents who do surrender their babies for adoption shouldn’t be faulted for at least recognizing that their offspring might be a lot better off raised by strangers.
A very informative, thought-provoking and ultimately moving documentary exploring both the bright and dark sides of the transnational, Asianl adoption controversy.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, Chinese and Spanish with subtitles.
Running time: 88 minutes
Distributor: Long Shot Factory
To see a trailer for Somewhere Between, visit: