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Reviews

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.

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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Library Journal April 2003
by Mary M. Nofsinger
Washington State University, Pullman

"Narrated by Helen Hill, this documentary interweaves an examination of adoption with producer Ganz’s story of rape, unwed pregnancy, and giving up her child for adoption. Diverse perspectives of adoptees, adoptive parents, and birth mothers and fathers show both the pros and cons of opening adoption records to adults. The video reveals a wide spectrum of emotions entailed by adoption, from negative adoptee reactions to legal issues and changing social mores. The film accurately portrays the history of adoption in the United States, featuring black-and-white snapshots of orphanages in the mid-1880’s, as well as foster care and the selection process of adoptive parents today.  This video strongly advocates adoptees’ rights to search for their birth certificates and to locate birth parents. The color, stereo sound, and audio quality are solid." 
Recommended for high school and adult audiences.

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Video Librarian May/June 2003
J. Asala

"Since my sister-in-law was adopted, and my cousin adopted not one, but five children, our family perhaps has a more realistic picture of the adoption process, which is rarely a simple case of a happy and healthy baby being placed in the home of a loving and nurturing couple and all involved living happily ever after. In fact, there are many issues involved in adoption, some of which can have a lifelong effect on adoptees and adoptive parents as well as birthparents. Filmmaker Sheila Ganz’s Unlocking the Heart of Adoption dispels many of the romantic myths surrounding the adoption process, interweaving her own personal story as a birthmother who was raped and later relinquished her child for adoption, with the stories of a wide range of adoptees, birthparents, and adoptive parents, touching on topics ranging from transracial adoptions to feelings of abandonment issues experienced by adoptees."

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Booklist November 2003
by Jeff Dick

"In this highly personal film, which looks at adoption from three viewpoints (adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents), artist and playwright Sheila Ganz draws from her own experience as a mother who 'unwillingly relinquished' her newborn in 1969.  The recurring image of Ganz sculpting a mother holding her baby serves as a reminder of her grievous loss and pays tribute to the daughter she held briefly.  Among the many interviewed subjects are fathers as well as adoptees, who recall efforts to reconnect with their birthparents. In an attempt to empower all parties in the adoption triangle, Ganz argues for easier access to birth records, better counseling for birthmothers, and more education for adoptive parents.  An enlightening documentary."

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Adoptive Families Magazine July/August 2003
by Carol Schaefer
Vice president of Concerned United Birthparents
author of The Other Mother (SoHo Press, 1991)

"In Unlocking the Heart of Adoption, Sheila Ganz reveals the complexity adoption brings to the lives of ordinary people and the repercussions of secrecy. Ultimately these interviews of adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents show the courage it takes to know one’s own story and the deepening understanding of love that results.

One adoptee describes the sense of being severed from his roots, the feeling that he’s 'living in this strange separated slice of time.'  A birthmother recalls sobbing when she brought her second son home from the hospital, the full weight of the loss of her first son now realized. An adoptive father comes to understand why his biracial son always disappeared at birthday parties, and why he struggled in school.

Interwoven with these explorations of identity, ethnicity, and truth is Ganz’s own story of becoming a birthmother. Although Ganz has met her adult daughter once, her daughter refuses further contact. 'Every year I send her a birthday card and let her know that I will always love her,' Ganz says. The depth of that love is evident in this film."

Read full review published in The Communicator Summer 2003

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Educational Media Reviews Online
Health Sciences Library 2003
by Rue Herbert
University of South Florida, Tampa

"Filmmaker Sheila Ganz uses her personal experiences as a springboard for this open discussion of adoption. Ms. Ganz was raped, became pregnant, and ultimately relinquished her newborn for adoption. Her lifelong sense of loss and concern for the child she never knew led her to search for an understanding of her own feelings and a connection with her daughter. An outcome of her quest is this program, which provides a variety of frank, personal interviews with adoptees, adoptive parents and birthparents. The individuals participating are a widely diverse group. The two main areas of focus are individual experience and adoption reform."

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Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington, NY November 2003
by Vic Skolnick, Director

"For most the term ‘adoption’ describes a seemingly simple act: Parents of a single person yearning for a child of their own apply to an agency and are rewarded with a child who will bear their name and become a legal loving member of the family. Artist and birthmother, Sheila Ganz, sharing her personal experience, created her documentary about adoption to foster awareness of the extraordinary complexity that envelops the lives of people who share that emotionally gripping experience."

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