Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy

POV, PBS-TV’s award-winning non-fiction showcase, will air Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy, a documentary by Stephanie Wang-Breal, tonight, August 31. Check your local listing for details.  The film tells the story of an eight-year-old orphan from China, Fang Sui Yong, and the Sadowskys, the family in Long Island who adopts her. The PBS Synopsis asks: “What is it like to be torn from your Chinese foster family, put on a plane with strangers and wake up in a new country, family and culture?” Good question, and one many of us ask regarding our children from Guatemala.

 The film has already generated controversy among some in the adoption community, who criticize the adoptive family as not being accommodating and understanding enough to their new daughter. I haven’t seen the film, so I’m not qualified to comment. I will say that I admire the Sadowskys for allowing director Stephanie Wang-Breal to film them during what is, for many adoptive families, the most stressful period of their lives–the first days and weeks after their children arrive. (Stressful for parents and children.)

I’m posting here a short interview with Terrell Brown, director Wang-Breal, and Donna Sadowsky, the adoptive mom. I especially like when Wang-Breal says her intent was to reveal the “complicated layers” of international adoption. That’s how adoption feels to me—layered and complicated—so I’m interested in seeing Wang-Breal’s interpretation.

Among other awards, Wo Ai Ni Mommy garnered “Best Documentary Feature” from the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival 2010. The film will be online at pbs.org September 1, 2010 through November 30, 2010.  I’d love to hear reactions from anyone who watches.

http://www.pbs.org/pov/woainimommy/

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6 Responses to “Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy”

  1. Sam says:

    I’m actually helping to promote this movie when it comes to the San Diego Asian Film Festival next month. Cool!

  2. Jessica says:

    Lucky you! A great film.

  3. The film is heart-wrenching and deeply moving in its raw and intimate portrayal of the struggles endured by little Faith Sadowsky. I wept with her! Her growth and transformation into an American girl are astounding and awe-inspiring! I am so very happy to see her thriving with her new family HOWEVER, I cannot help but express my utter shock at hearing her adoptive mother, Donna Sadowsky, express mid-way through the film, that she did not go to China to save a life but instead went to fill a void in her life, to meet a need she had- Oh, so you’re using a vulnerable, scared child to fix your emotional issues and fill your inner emptiness??? This kind of egotistical, self-serving, self-centered parenting disturbs and repulses me but it explains a lot in terms of how unrealistic Donna’s expectations were of Faith during her first days in America; bombarding her with vocabulary, homework and expecting her to behave and communicate her emotional needs the way an adult would from the very first day she arrived in America. My husband and I kept asking ourselves, “Is this woman nuts? Is she at all aware of what this girl is going through….the crisis she is enduring, the fear and heartache and she’s expects her to articulate her emotional needs in English?”. In my opinion, what Faith needed during those early days was warmth, love and acceptance…a chance to feel her sadness and fear and to be loved through it, to know that it’s o.k. to feel those feelings, that she is safe. What’s ironic is that the moment Donna arrived in the USA with Faith her first words at the airport were, “It’s great to hear English spoken everywhere” and yet she was expecting Faith to communicate her feelings immediately in English, turning a cold shoulder and saying, “If you don’t tell me how you feel I can’t help you.” How can anyone expect an orphaned Chinese 8 year-old girl going through such traumatic change to articulate her feelings in English so soon after being taken away from her familiar surroundings and arriving to a foreign country? INSANE!!! I realize being an adoptive parent is an enormous undertaking with many overlapping emotions and difficulties for all involved but Donna’s blatant egotism and ‘you- need-to-fill-my-needs-and-be-how-I-want-you-to-be’ approach to parenting is FRIGHTENINGLY DISTURBING and utterly appalling! The film is excellent and a real eye-opener on many levels. I applaud the filmmakers for their candid and compassionate portrayal. Thank you.

  4. Jessica says:

    Suzana, thank you so much for your comments. As you say, the film is “excellent, a “real eye-opener,” “candid” and “compassionate.”
    Regarding adoptive parents’ attitudes toward their newly arrived children: Maybe more advance preparation about what lies ahead might help. Most adoptive parents receive little to none. (Especially with older children, who come with their own long histories, more preparation seems imperative.) In my own life with our children, in hindsight, I would do some things differently, but I did the best I could with what I knew at the time.
    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts.

  5. cynthia rovero says:

    i find suzanna’s comments about the film to be deep on the level of showing more compassion toward faith in that making the adjustments into her new families life does take more than being able to communicate in english. i admired the families ability to find cantonese speaking people, and keep in touch with the foster family too. it could be that donna used a poor choice of words to express her feelings for wanting to add more love into her family? i noticed that during the chat over the internet with faiths foster mom that donna was very tearful. i believe she too wishes to be able to have a cultural connection with her daughter , but as she told faith it is difficult to learn a new language (culture.)

    i enjoyed the film very much and feel as jessica does in that more preparation for adoptive families i.e. sensitivity training would benefit everyone.

    i myself did not experience intercountry adoption although i find many similarities with what adoptive parents of intercountry adopted children tell me in relationship to our childrens sharing heretages that look exotic to the anglo community.

    thank you jessica for bringing this film to my attention.

  6. Jessica says:

    Cynthia: Thanks for pointing out Donna’s efforts toward helping Faith adjust to her new family: finding Cantonese-speaking people and making a connection with the foster family.

    I sometimes feel that nothing about international adoption is easy–for anyone. Certainly not for the child, and often not for the parent, either. That’s why I believe more advance preparation and follow-up training is needed, not only for in transracial adoptive families, but for any adoptive family. (But as you know, being a transracial adoptive family adds yet another dimension.)

    Glad you found the film worthwhile. Thanks for writing.

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