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Review

Adoption Today December/January 2006
by Richard Fischer, Editor

Unlocking the Heart of Adoption chronicles the filmmaker’s 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 human-interest documentary.

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.


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