At Heritage Camp this year, I joined a large group of adoptive parents who viewed Jill R. Hodges’ moving and thought-provoking documentary short, Extended Family, which tells of Hodges’ search for her son’s birth mother in Guatemala. The film effectively conveys the reality of life for some Guatemalan women who have relinquished a child for adoption—the secrecy and the shame, and the judgment to which they are subjected. One particularly effective segment shows an interview with one such birth mother (not Hodges’ son’s). I was fascinated to watch the young woman’s face go through a range of emotions as she discussed her decision to place her child for adoption. Also fascinating were the frank conversations with a few of the well-known “searchers” who facilitate contact between adoptive and birth families. Viewers may learn a lot by hearing these women share their insights, gained over many years. Finally, the film illustrates the everyday challenges faced by many rural Guatemalans as Hodges and her seacher travel by van through the rain over muddy, winding roads to reach her son’s birth village.
Ultimately, Hodges meets her son’s extended birth family, although not his birth mother, who was unavailable to attend the reunion. Those scenes especially will interest anyone who wonders what first meetings may be like. At the end of the film, Hodges’ son is shown in a photo with members of his Guatemalan family.
The screening sparked a lively and wide-ranging discussion, as audience members shared their thoughts and experiences on birth family contact. Subjects included whether or not parents should initiate the process, or wait for their children to ask to establish contact, and when such meetings should occur.
If you or your group are interested in a screening of Extended Family, contact Jill Hodges via Facebook at Extended Family, or through her website, extended-family.org, where you can also view the trailer.
Image credit: Jill R. Hodges