Adoption Today December/January 2006
by Richard Fischer, Editor
Unlocking the Heart of Adoption chronicles the filmmakers
journey as a birthmother, and reveals the personal stories of adoptees, birthparents and
adoptive parents in both same race and transracial adoptions. These stories span 70 years,
from Alice, a birthmother whose child was adopted out without her consent in 1922; to Ron,
an adoptee who uncovered the truth after his parents died when he was 36; to Phyllis, a
birthmother and Alison, an adoptive in an open adoption with twin boys born in 1991. The
film includes interviews with three mixed race transracially adopted people: Debbie, a
Japanese American woman; Paul, a Filipino American man and Martin, an African American man
with Hal, his Caucasian father.
Their stories provide a window into the lifelong process of adoption
following the path of relinquishment, adoption, growing up adopted, raising an adopted
child, years of silence and shame, and the search for answers to unasked questions. In the
process, they explain what the universal issues of "identity" "loss"
and "needing to know the truth" mean to them.
The subjects in the film stirringly reveal, with honesty and sometimes humorous
candor, the enormous complexity adoption creates in the lives of normal when impacted by
adoption. Bridging the gap between adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents by showing
the commonalty of their experiences.
Many candid snapshots touchingly enrich each story. As filmmaker Sheila Ganz
tells her story, she constructs a life-size sculpture of a mother in a hospital bed
holding her baby. The statue commemorates the 10 minutes Ganz was allowed to hold her
newborn daughter. Historical footage of early adoption practices in America is threaded
throughout the film and serves as an illuminating background to this powerful
Unlocking the Heart of Adoption gives the viewer an intimate
understanding of adoption as a lifelong process. And its impact on all members of the
adoption triad. A wonderful teaching documentary recommended for individuals and group
viewing or discussion group.