No Matter Where You Are, You Always Find Your Way Back Home
by cscar11 on November 18, 2013 - 11:15pm
The documentary film “Somewhere Between” by Linda Goldstein Knowlton (2011) was based around the idea of giving Chinese girls that were adopted a chance to find themselves in a world of cultural differences between their home land and their new life in America. I noticed that when the four main girls were interviewed in the film, they couldn’t find where they fit in. They seemed to be part of the predominant white culture of their adoptive home but also felt a connection to their homeland of China. It is hard for someone like me to sympathize with those four girls since I haven’t felt out of place in such of a degree as that but I can understand what it feels like to try to be one with the popular group or dominant mass.
One of the girls, Haley, went so far into her culture that she attempted to locate her birth family back in China. This is extremely difficult to do since most orphans are just left on the streets or door steps with no information given to the orphanage. Typically, the agency will give the baby a new birthday based on how old the child looks and will adopt the kids out to other countries like England and America as a few examples in the film. It is rare of girls to be able to find their families after such a long time but her biological father noticed her sign she put up in the area she was found as a baby.
Another culture gap the girls had to face, especially Haley when she finally met her birth family, was the language barrier. Growing up in the United States, the girls were exposed to the native language of English which isn’t typical of the Chinese. When Haley tried to communicate with her mother and father for the first time, the conversation had to go through a translator which took away from the connected feel from this emotional experience. Watching her body language, you could tell she was almost uncomfortable with the encounter by the way her body tensed up when her mother and father were repeatedly touching her hair and arms since that is what is accustomed in China. Haley is used to American customs such as giving each other space when you do not properly know the other person on that sort of level. Her birth parents seemed to come to the idea that even though they didn’t know Haley for most of her natural born life, they were still related and that is enough for them to show that sort of close emotional bond with their daughter and the repeated touching, hugging, and kissing was their expression of love to the daughter they thought they would never see again.
An interesting thing to see in the film is the differences between how the girls were brought up and how that shaped their views on the meaning of culture. One of the girls, Jenni, was given a birthday cake written in Chinese for her first birthday while everyone sang in Chinese. By her 14th birthday, she was Americanized by being given an “American name” and having her cake written in English while everyone of her friends sang happy birthday. Some of the girls feel like they are white and fit in with everyone else including their adoptive family while Haley for example felt that she was missing out on a big part of her identity. It shows that just because a girl is given a life doesn’t mean she feels like she fits into that idea of culture and needs to seek out who she is and where she belongs.
Goldstein, L. (Director). (2011). Somewhere Between [DVD]. United States: Ladylike Films