Closure Documentary Review
Brooke Randolph, LMHC
Recently, I was given the opportunity to attend a local screening of the documentary Closure about a trans-racial adoptee's search for her birth family. It can be difficult for me as a single mother to do things on a school night, but I make it a priority to learn from as many adult adoptees as possible. Every experience is somewhat unique and every adoptee has some wisdom (and sometimes comfort) to offer me as an adoptive parent and educator for other adoptive parents. I have a standing offer to take any adult that was adopted internationally to coffee and I love meeting new people this way. I have heard lots of stories, but I very much enjoyed the unique story and story-telling of Closure, produced by trans-racial adoptee Angela and her husband Bryan. They were kind enough to answer some questions for our readers. I hope that you will like their Facebook page, look for the DVD and digital download release on December 1, 2013, and/or schedule a screening at a theater near you.
Angela, what is the most important thing you want adoptive parents to understand?
I feel that it's important for adoptive parents to know that adoptees can have strong feelings for both their [adoptive parents] and their birth parents. Allowing and trusting their child to have these experiences is paramount. If the adoptee feels that they aren't being supported in their quest to learn more about their own identity (through the search for their birth parents), this denial may create a bigger rift between the adoptive parents and the adoptee. Supporting the adoptee in a search and reunion shouldn't be much different than how a parent supports their child in their other identity forming hobbies and activities.
Angela, what would you like to share with other adoptees?
Through the film, I hope adoptees can find their own voice, and feel empowered to speak their own truths, and be heard. I'm hopeful for the day when adoptees don't feel the need to undermine their desire to search by hiding behind the statement that they want to know their medical history. I've heard from many adoptees who feel the need to explain their desire to find their birth parents this way, yet the acknowledge to me that there is so much more beneath that statement, as they simply hope to better learn their own life story.
What was the most unexpected part of your search?
Angela: I did not expect my birth mother and my mother to have such a beautifully complex and strong ongoing relationship. They are quite opposite people in many ways, but the bond that they share is deeper than I'd ever imagined. They both truly love each other. I have loved seeing the racial judgement barrier, socioeconomic status barrier, educational barrier and all of the other ways they are different, broken, and instead witnessing their pure and simple, loving relationship emerge.
What do you think you have gained that has been the most valuable to you?
Angela: Gaining relationships with my birth siblings has been quite valuable. I have really enjoyed stalking my birth sister's Facebook page (in an effort to get to know her better), getting texts from my her with pictures of her daughters (my nieces), and Skyping with my her occasionally. It is a unique relationship, a combination of deep and superficial as we both work and greatly desire to get to know each other. I am looking forward to more years of correspondence, being an aunt to her daughters and taking trips together. I find it to be very sweet and endearing when she says we need to "make up for lost time."
Do you think there is anything that you have lost as a part of this journey?
Angela: I am glad to have lost the need to expend so much mental, emotional and physical energy on wondering, fantasizing and searching for my birth family. Not having to spend energy in that sense anymore has freed me up to be able to utilize my time in other areas. This has been a good loss!
What cultural issues have you run into in relating to birth family? Angela, has this had any impact on your feelings of identity?
I certainly don't feel that I fit in to the black culture of the South. At first this was a hard realization, but it's been easier as I simply look at the facts, which are that I was not raised in the South, and thus would not have gained an understanding of what it means to be black in the South. Instead, I have a great understanding of what it means to be black in the predominately white Pacific Northwest. My understanding of my identity went through a shift while visiting Tennessee as I was able to imagine what life would've been like. As I've been able to put the pieces back together and learn about the reason for my being relinquished it's been easier to accept the fact that I feel more comfortable in the Pacific Northwest than in the South, obviously as I have been shaped by the environment in which I lived.
Bryan, what thoughts and emotions did you have as Angela’s husband while she went on this journey?
It took a while for me to get to a place where I understood her deep desire to search and find her birth family. But once I got there, I was all in! While on the reunion trips it was difficult to both be there for her as a husband and also behind the camera trying to keep the shots composed and in focus. My first concern was her safety and well being, and her knowing that if she needed to grab me and go for a walk to get a break from everyone, that she could do that and I'd be ready. Once I saw how well Angela and the rest of us were received, it took a little pressure off of me for her well being, and allowed me to focus on getting a good variety of footage. Since everyone was more interested in talking to Angela, it allowed me to slip into the background and take a fly-on-the-wall approach with the camera.
What do (each or either of) you want to accomplish by sharing this story?
Angela: I hope that by sharing my story, prospective adoptive parents can hear about some of the complexities, fears and struggles I had. I often hear people who begin their journey towards adoption, but they have never spoken to an adult adoptee, choosing instead to focus on thinking of what a great deed they are doing, or preparing the nursery. I think it's important for those wishing to adopt to hear from adoptees themselves first - understanding, of course, that every adoptees' story is different. Mine is just one amongst many, but it's a start.
Bryan: I agree wholeheartedly with Angela. When adoption is talked about and marketed it is almost always in reference to infants and children. But guess what, those children grow up! And if they're an adopted child, most likely they'll be asking the same questions that Angela did, whether they have an open adoption or closed. Parents adopting should be aware of those long-term trials for their adopted child, and the best way to do that is to listen to the stories of adult adoptees right now.
Do you think your very personal experience with adoption has been a help or a hindrance to you as an adoption professional?
Angela: When I was working within the adoption field, I think it was helpful for the families I worked with to hear some of my personal experiences (when I shared them). I felt as though I could represent the voice of the pre-verbal child during the impending adoption. This felt to be a positive contribution as it's tough for me to know that the adoptee is going through such trauma during the time of being handed over, yet many were not viewing the transfer this way. Instead viewing this time as a time of pure joy. Though it was often a joyful time, it was also incredibly tragic.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Angela: Closure is not meant to be a prescription for how all special needs, trans-racial adult adoptees from closed adoptions should act. Everyone's story is so varied, and there are so many components making each situation deserving of individual attention and consideration at each turning point. I hope people know that Closure is simply one story of many, I'm glad it is being viewed by so many, but hope people can remember that their life story can and should look different than mine.
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Photo Credit: ClosureDocumentary.com
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