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Statement from the Filmmaker

A S making sculpture.gif (38049 bytes)When adoption records began to close in the 1930’s, a veil of secrecy dropped over the adoptive family, and birthparents were expected to go on with their lives as if it didn’t happen.  Even today, it is a prevalent view that once the adoption is finalized, that is the end of the process.

I decided to make Unlocking the Heart of Adoption to challenge this assumption by providing a window into the deeper feelings of adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents to shed light on the impact of adoption on their lives. It is my intention to create greater understanding and compassion for the emotional and familial complexities of the lifelong process of adoption. These stories will resonate for inter-country and foster care families, as well.

As a birthmother, I describe my experience and interweave the stories of women and men, adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents in same race and transracial adoptions. Unlocking the Heart of Adoption follows their path of relinquishment, adoption, growing up adopted, raising an adopted child, years of silence and shame, and searching for answers to unasked questions.  The people in the film tell their stories with courage, honesty and humor.  My realization about the impact of social forces on my own life leads to self-forgiveness.

The stories in the film are told again the historic backdrop of adoption in America narrated by Helen Hill.  Archival footage illustrates the Orphan Trains Era 1856-1929, the beginning of the sealing of adoption records in the 1930’s, the practice of open adoptions initiated in the 1980’s, and the current civil rights struggle for adult adoptees to obtain their original birth certificate.  In 1998, Helen was chief petitioner for ballot Measure 58 in Oregon. This landmark legislation passed giving adult adoptees in Oregon unconditional access to their original birth certificate. 

My artistic background is in the visual arts and sculpture. Throughout the film, as I tell my story, I construct a life-size sculpture of a mother holding her baby in a hospital bed using chicken wire, bamboo, burlap and plaster.  Unlocking the Heart of Adoption is my first film.

Of paramount importance to me is recognition of the diversity of the adoption experience and encouragement for openness and honesty within the birth/adoptive family and society.  It is my hope, that as the people in the film tell their story, viewers will feel empowered to express their true thoughts and feelings, and that those close to them will listen with openness and caring.

Best wishes,
Sheila Ganz

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