Sep 11, 201208:47 PMChina Mom
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Oklahoma screening of Somewhere Between, a documentary that follows the lives of four teenaged girls adopted from China and now living in the United States.
The film is in limited release, showing in select cities in the US, but was among the films showing at the Sundance Institute Film Forward screening in Sulfur, OK last weekend. It was a long drive on a very busy weekend, but I had a hunch it would be worth the effort. I was right.
Somewhere Between is a deeply emotional film that examines the core of international adoption: what does it mean to be from somewhere other than here?
It’s something my daughter is beginning to struggle with – and she’s only six. More than once, she has told me that she is neither Chinese nor American, or even Chinese-American. When I ask her what she is then, she just shakes her head and looks away. She doesn’t know.
Watching the four teenage girls in the film struggle with this same issue was rough. The movie isn’t recommended for anyone under 14 – and for good reason. The subject matter is deeply moving and complex. I attended with one of my best adoptive mom friends and we pretty much cried for 90 minutes.
Of the roughly 80,000 girls who have been adopted from China since 1989—a decade after China implemented its One Child Policy—the film follows four teenagers: Haley, Jenna, Ann, and Fang.
The girls reveal a heartbreaking sense of self-awareness as they attempt to answer the question, “Who am I?” They meet and bond with other adoptees, some journey back to China to reconnect with their culture, and some reach out to the orphaned girls left behind. And all of them attempt to make sense of their complex identities. Issues of belonging, race, and gender are brought to life.
On more than one occasion, I gulp-cried. But it wasn’t because I learned anything new. Rather, the film confirmed what I already felt or thought I knew. Amid all the emotions and tears, I remembered one thing: it’s not about me. It’s about my daughter.
This whole journey, from the very start, has been and always will be about her. When we decided to adopt, our agency reminded us that it’s not what you want, it’s what the child needs – it’s not about you, it’s about her. And that has been my directive ever since.
These questions are hers, not mine. And the answers will be hers to find, not mine to give. I can hold her when she cries and comfort her if she’s in pain. I can guide her and try to help her understand, but ultimately, it’s her book to write. She's the star of this film, not me.