How to Find Your Roots When There is No Place to Look

by treyn1 on November 18, 2013 - 9:42pm


In the film Somewhere Between (Knowlton, 2011), adoption across international borders for instance, China and the United States, is a process that depends on multiple fictions. The young girls at the orphanages are given a random birthday, rarely no biological roots or relatives that could have taken care of them, and usually labeled as young as possible so international adopters like the American families in the film are willing to adopt these young girls so they can raise and watch them grow up. As a result of the falsification of records through the Chinese adoption agencies, this causes for the four girls as they grow up in America with their adoptive parents to wonder who they are, and what their biological roots are. This produces controversy within the girls as whether to keep the fiction of their unknown past alive or to seek and discover who they really are and find out where their biological family remains. Knowlton shows a range of girls that are either very interested in going back to China and to the orphanage they were at and to look deeper into their mysterious past, or some girls in the movie convey that are content with their Americanized lifestyle and believe that they were destined to live in America because it was simply meant to be, they have no interest looking back into their roots.

 The film displayed how a few of the girls were abandoned as babies or toddlers; for example, Fang or Jenni as she is called in America was taken on a bus ride and left on the side of the street by her stepbrother to be picked up by someone that could care for her. Haley’s biological mother took her to a neighboring village and then left her, she eventually ended up at the orphanage with hardly any information about her. Some of these girls in the film like Haley feel the need to prove themselves and go back to China to meet her biological parents and ask the big question “why,” while others like Ann are satisfied with the fact that she was abandoned most likely because she is a girl and she has no interest in meeting or tracing back to find her biological roots. The film showed

Knowlton appropriately portrays that all girls are concurrently insiders and outsiders and they have a sense of expulsion of all lands, by living somewhere between China and America, which is their norm. The four girls in this documentary understand that they have their own journey and paths that they can be made which makes them comfortable within their own skin. This film discovered the attitudes towards being an immigrant in the American Society and how difficult it is for some to uncover their roots because of the lack of records that the orphanages have on them and who they were and who their family was. Fang mentioned in the beginning of the film that she does not even know her own birthday. At her fifteenth birthday party she explained that she didn’t not feel as if she were turning only fifteen but it was the date that the orphanage had given to her, so that was the number she was living by. After watching this film, I have developed a sense of empathy towards these girls and all adoptees that want to go back to their land of origin to discover their primary family heritage, but the chances of them being able to are slim to none, and with the minuet amount of true biological information that the orphanages have on record.


APA Reference:

Knowlton, L. (Director). (2011). Somewhere between [Motion picture]. USA:     Available from Long Story Shot Factory & Ladylike Films


This is a great review. I find it awful to think that it is so difficult for these girls to find their birth parents. It must be so difficult for them to live a life unable to know what region of China they have come from or even how old they actually are. I can’t imagine celebrating my birthday knowing that there is a good chance this is infact not my day, and I may not even be the age I am told to be. I have a family friend who adopted a little girl from Guatemala when she was a baby. She is now 7 years old and has been told that she was adopted. Her parents have all of the information about her parents and siblings and their location. They also have information as to why she was given up for adoption. When the time comes in which she has an interest in finding her birth family it will not be as much of a struggle considering she is given all of this information. She is blessed to have been so fortunate. It is interesting to see the differences that exist in adoption in different countries. In China a majority of the information is not available whereas in the US the adoptive parents have the records of their child along with extensive information. In the movie the girls were sitting with experts on adoption that were discussing how many people are attempting to make it so people are unable to adopt children from other countries. It has shown that many of the adoptions are not done in a legal manner. I feel it would be interesting to research what exactly they meant by this and how often adoptions are taking place illegally. They also discussed how many countries do not want the children to have access to their files. This would also be something interesting to look into as to why this is.

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