Posts Tagged ‘Donna Sadowsky’

“In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee” impressions

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

Last night I watched a third documentary on PBS told from the point of view of an adoptee. In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is different from the two previous offerings—Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy and Off and Running—because the subject of the film, Deann Borshay Liem, is also the filmmaker. In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is Liem’s second documentary about adoption, building on themes introduced in her first film, First Person Plural.

I don’t know if it’s possible for me to watch any documentary about adoption without feeling great sorrow. In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is no different. For me, there is no adoption story that doesn’t contain, at its center, a profound sense of loss. (I wrote my book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir,  to help me process the overwhelming emotions I felt about adopting my own daughter.) Although I’m writing this piece the day after watching In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, I still feel sad and depressed.

That said, as an adoptive parent, I have learned so much from hearing the stories of children and adults were adopted. My sincere hope is that my generation of adoptive parents continues to learn from the experiences of the first wave of parents and children, who share their stories with eloquence and candor.

Deann Borshay Liem grew up as Kang Ok Jin in an orphanage in Korea, placed there by her mother, a widow who struggled to support her five children. In the same orphanage was another little girl, Cha Jung Hee, who was receiving monthly letters from her American sponsors, the Borshays. Days before the Borshays requested to adopt Cha Jung Hee, the girl was taken from the orphanage by her father and not returned. Rather than disappoint the Borshays, the orphanage directors substituted eight-year-old Kang Ok Jin, by pasting her photo onto the passport of Cha Jung Hee, and sending her instead. The orphange staff warned Kang Ok Jin, soon to become Deann Borshay, not to reveal her true identity. (more…)


Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy impressions

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

I wish everyone could see Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy because it gives some small insight into the losses endured by so many children who are adopted. Not only kids adopted internationally, but any child who has spent time in foster care or an orphanage, or anywhere they may have formed attachments. (Not to mention the loss of birth family and culture.) That said, the film also shows the gains made: a loving family, and a sense of permanent belonging. 

Watching the movie, I developed a real affection for the little girl who is the film’s subject, Fang Sui Yong, now named Faith Sadowsky. I admire her strength, her intelligence, her resolve, her adaptability, her honesty, her humor, her sweetness.

I also became very fond of the Sadowsky family, who adopted Faith. From Donna and her husband, who are trying hard to do their best; to the two sweethearts of older brothers who obviously care so much about their sisters; to little Darah, also born in China and adopted into the family. The love the Sadowskys feel for one another is palpable.  Faith is part of that, no question.

I like the way the filmmaker, Stephanie Wang-Breal, begins with Donna Sadowsky and her father going to China to pick up Faith. My guess is that unless you’re an adoptive parent, you don’t know what the “pick-up trip” looks like. The footage gives viewers a good idea. I had read about the scene where Donna is reviewing English flashcards with Faith; some viewers found Donna’s behavior unnecessarily harsh. All I can say is that I, too, have spent hours and days in distant hotel rooms during our adoption processes, and let me tell you, it can be tough. Those moments may not have shown Donna in the best light, but to me, they felt real. Donna and Faith are flesh-and-blood people, and they are struggling. 

The middle of the film shows domestic scenes both happy and sad: Faith dancing at her big brother’s bar mitzvah, contrasted with her losing her facility with Chinese language and thus her connection to her foster family. Faith learning to swim, juxtaposed with her wanting to go home to China.  To me as an adoptive mother, those episodes felt true and revealing. In our house, too, life never feels simple. 

The film ends with Faith shown to be a happy, incredibly well-adjusted girl. Wang-Breal chooses to show her as a complete “American”—driving toward the camera with her sister in a pink convertible, both wearing movie-star sunglasses. Like most children who grow up in a new country—not only kids who are adopted—Faith has absorbed her new culture to such a degree that she is transformed. Is that good or bad? Wang-Breal leaves that to us to decide.  

I think because so many of our children who came to us through adoption adapt so well to their new lives, the world (and we) sometimes forget the long, bumpy road many of them traveled to get here. Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy serves as an excellent reminder.


Wo Ai Ni (I Love You) Mommy

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

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 September 1, 2010 through November 30, 2010.  I’d love to hear reactions from anyone who watches.