Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ida Adoption Movie Review

In 1960’s Poland, a young novice nun, Anna, is preparing to make her lifetime vows of poverty, chastity and obedience next week. Before she can join the convent, however, her prioress requires her to seek out her aunt. Anna finds her aunt, Wanda, and learns much of her own history. Anna’s real name is Ida Lebenstein. She was born to a Jewish family during World War 2, and her parents and brother were killed. She was spared by the man who killed them, believing that, because she was an infant, no one would know she was Jewish. He brought her to a priest, and left her there. Now, with the help of her aunt, Ida hunts out her history and works to decide whether she wishes to actually become a nun.

How Does This Connect to Adoption?
Ida reminds me of Closure, in some ways. A young woman travels far in order to uncover her history. Ida also has to decide how to incorporate her history into her future.

Strong Points
Ida’s prioress understands the importance of personal history. Before allowing Ida to choose what to do with her future, the prioress requires her to learn about her past. Ida’s access to her historical information did not come without great effort, and the information that she received was not easy to accept, but it does help her develop a fuller picture of her life, history, identity, and, I believe, her future.

Not every exploration into one’s history is painless. Ida learns that her family was murdered. She sees their grave, and transports their remains to a family grave. Her aunt commits suicide.

Ida is a very well-made movie. It is Poland’s official entry into the Best Foreign-Language Film category for the upcoming Academy Awards. It’s sad and thoughtful. I also felt personally drawn to this film because I am Polish, and it’s actually through my adoption work that I became interested in learning more about my Polish heritage. The film has received very solid critical and popular reviews. I found it a bit slow and sad for my taste, and also, perhaps, a little confusing. On the other hand, I do appreciate the invitation to travel with a young adult who fully explores her past before making commitments for her future. The film isn’t rated, but is probably best geared towards audiences 15 and up. The film is widely accessible online; check out its site to see it. http://www.musicboxfilms.com/ida-movies-98.php

Questions for Discussion
How does your understanding of your family’s past impact your identity?   How does your self-identity impact the decisions you make for the future?

Here's the trailer:

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Adoption at the Movies Two-Year Blogiversary!

Adoption at the Movies recently celebrated its two-year blogiversary. Back in October of 2012, the site opened with a review of Disney’s The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Since then, we’ve covered around 150 films, and Adoption at the Movies has been read in over 100 countries. Adoption at the Movies’ reviews have also been carried in several foster care, adoption, and social work magazines. Also, since then, I moved from Missouri to Los Angeles, which is really a neat place to live when you’re writing movie reviews! Last week, Adoption at the Movies was also honored as Addison Cooper was presented with an Emerging Leader award by the Eastern Nazarene College Alumni Association.
photo credit angiescakesandbakes.blogspot.com

We’ve recently run a few polls on Adoption at the Movies, to help know how the site is used, and how it can be most helpful. Most readers come to the site looking for a review of a specific movie. Adoptive and foster parents want to know whether a movie will be a positive or a negative experience for their kids. The most requested films are current films with ratings up to PG 13, with a slight preference for animated films; parents also are interested in reviews of already-released films with definite adoption connections.

I’m looking forward to the next several years of adoption movie reviews. Thanks for being here, and please keep reading! New reviews come out every Tuesday!

In celebration of the first 2 years of Adoption at the Movies (and because I’m kind of a stats geek), here are the most-viewed posts from each month of the first 2 years! Any that you haven’t seen yet? 
Check them out!  Thanks for reading, and hey, please share this with a friend!

The Most-Read Post from Each Month of Our First Two Years

October 2012: Disney's Tarzan
November 2012: Angels in the Outfield
December 2012: Superman 2
January 2013: Despicable Me
May 2013: The Jungle Book
July 2013: Despicable Me 2
August 2013: Turbo
September 2013: Moving and Foster Care
October 2013: Disney/Pixar's Up
November 2013: Frozen
April 2014: Rio 2
July 2014: Earth to Echo
August 2014: The Giver
September 2014: The Boxtrolls

October 2014: ReMoved

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Book of Life Adoption Movie Review

A busload of children assigned to detention arrives at a history museum. They’re unexcited, and expect to be left unimpressed. They are greeted by a confident woman who presents herself as a tour guide. The children prepare to follow her through the front door of the museum, but she leads them down a hidden path, explaining, “You’re not like the other kids.” The children follow the guide past an elderly employee, and eventually they find themselves in a room filled with treasure and skulls. The guide intones, “Behold the glorious beauty of Mexico.” She leads the children to The Book of Life, from which she reads them a legend about how the ways of the world came to be. It is a story of a bet between two gods (La Muerte, who rules the Land of the Remembered, and Xibalba, who rules the Land of the Forgotten.) It’s also the story of two boys, Joaquin and Manolo, who love the same girl, Mariam the coming of age of all three of them, and the fate of a town threatened by villains. It’s a lot of stories, but as the film rightly says, “All the world is made of stories.”

The Adoption Connection

The theme of remembering, and desiring, those we’ve lost is relevant to folks who’ve been adopted or who are in foster care.

Strong Points

The boys both want Maria’s hand, but Maria asserts, “I belong to no one.”

Although they are rivals, and at times are close to becoming enemies, the friendship of Joaquin and Manolo perseveres; each risks his life to save the other.

The Day of the Dead is a significant part of the story; it underscores the importance of remembering those we have lost.

The film encourages kids to “write your own life.”


Some scenes take place in the underworld. Children might be frightened to see dead characters return, transformed.

One father puts considerable pressure on his son to follow in his footsteps, and expresses great disappointment when the son follows his own heart.

A character comments that he can feel the presence of his lost mother one day a year. It is a good thought, and I think it is a valuable idea to have rituals to help us remember those we have lost – whether through death or through other means; at the same time, it’d be good to make sure kids know that they’re not limited to annual remembrances of those they have lost.

One character tries to comfort a young boy by telling him that, so long as he remembers his dead mother, she is still here – but that if he forgets her, she will be truly gone. I wonder if kids who have lost relationships with their parents through adoption or through foster care might come away from that scene with an unhelpful sense of guilt.  

One beloved character dies unexpectedly, and this could be very difficult for young viewers. Earlier, the character is told by a close friend, basically, that he deserves to be dead. (For what it’s worth, the narration of the Day of the Dead is interrupted here and the film cuts back to the detention kids. One of them asks, “What kind of a story is this? We’re just kids!” – it’s welcome comic relief.) ***SPOILER – he is later brought back to life. ***

One character asks, “What is it with Mexicans and death?” It’s meant (and probably will be taken) as a joke, but some audiences might be taken aback at any ethnically-based jokes.

Weak Points

Because he refuses to compromise his sense of right and wrong, one young man is disowned by his father.

A villain attempts to destroy the whole town by blowing himself up.


This is a fun movie with excellent use of music. It shows beautiful friendships that survive difficult times, and family relationships that are restored, even after being severed by death or by arguments. It also emphasizes that value of remembering those with whom we have lost contact (in the film, it’s because of death, but I think adoptees and foster children could also see a connection to the losses they’ve experienced). At the same time, some concerns – and the death-centric aspect of the story, might make it too scary for young viewers. Other kids might be fascinated when a character, upon dying, is reunited with generations of his ancestors. I could see this being hard for adoptees who are reminded of the biologically-related relations they’ve lost, or empowering as they consider their place in the histories of multiple families. It could be a good film to watch and then immediately process with kids between the ages of 9-12; there are good conversations to be had.  

Questions for Discussion

Who do you miss? How do you remember them? What could we do to help celebrate our memories of them?

If you could be reunited with people from your past – some that you’ve met, some that you’ve only heard about – who would they be?

What do you think happens after we die?

What do you want to be when you grow up? Do you think your parents support you? 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Talking About ReMoved Part 2 - an Interview with Christina Matanick

I recently had a chance to connect with Christina Matanick, who with her husband Nathanael has created the phenomenally well-received foster care film, ReMoved. They're working on creating the sequel, ReMoved Part 2, and for the next 20 hours, you can help fund it on Kickstarter by clicking here. 

Addison: what's your own connection to foster care and adoption? 

Christina: My husband and I have always considered adoption, and when we started exploring the possibilities, someone told us about adoption from foster care. We signed up to learn more at foster parent trainings and began to understand that the need goes beyond just adoption and into journeying with kids in foster care regardless of their court process being an adoptive or reunification situation. It broke our hearts to imagine our own children being moved from home to home, separated from each other, and feeling so unloved and unwanted. 

At the time of these initial trainings, our social worker (an amazing woman named Chris Poynter) was trying to help our class understand foster care from the child's point of view. It's so easy to look at life from our own perspective--the challenges and sacrifices we would make in order to open our home to someone else's child--and so difficult to move from our own perspective into seeing something through another person's experience. Chris showed us a slideshow of quotes a kid in foster care might say, if they were able to articulate their emotions. It was heartbreakingly sad. 

After that little slideshow, Nathanael and I looked at each other and said, "We should make this into a film." At the time, we had already signed up for a short film speedmaking competition, so we decided to make the topic of foster care our subject matter. From there, I did a lot more research on understanding the foster care experience through a child's perspective, Nathanael assembled an amazing team of people to come on board with the project, and then we wrote, shot, and edited the actual film within the film competition's parameters. 

Addison: What has been your most cherished feedback from the film?

Christina: All the feedback from foster alum. Also from foster parents (and people who are NOW foster parents because of ReMoved). That's been extraordinary. But definitely the most cherished feedback is all the foster alum (and current youth too) who have written us saying "Thank you," that ReMoved tells their story and articulates their emotion in a way that nothing else ever has. That is simply mind-blowing and overwhelming in such an amazing way. We are so blessed to be a part of that. 

Addison: What are your hopes for Part 2, and, a year from now, what do you hope it will have accomplished?

Christina: We hope it's an extraordinary piece of art. Better than the first one. And that it reaches and touches more people than part one. We hope that it will play even a small role in breaking the cycle of abuse and neglect that continues to perpetuate itself in our nation and our world. We hope less kids will have to experience this story, that more people will get involved, and that it will inspire and challenge people to love one another better. 

Addison: How can people support the film now?

Christina: There's still time to be part of the team that is making ReMoved Part Two happen! You can visit our kickstarter campaign at www.removedfilm.com but time is running out to get your name in the credits or pick out some awesome reward.

Addison: How can people support the film once it's released? 

Christina: Share it! Send it to your friends, do something about this issue--don't just watch it and remain unmoved. This really is an organic movement because of ordinary people. 

Thanks to Christina for her time, and to everyone involved with ReMoved for making such a powerful, valuable picture of life in foster care. For the next twenty hours, you can become part of the project by clicking here
Open Adoption Blogs