Tuesday, March 21, 2017
My Life as a Zucchini Adoption Movie Review
Several young children share life at a French orphanage while they wait to be adopted in this French-language, English-subtitled clay animation short film. My Life as a Zucchini was a nominee for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and is a beautiful, gripping, and – for me – a simultaneously heart-wrenching and inspiring story. It’s probably not good for most kids – which might be surprising, given that it’s an animated film about kids. It’s definitely worth seeing for adults who are considering becoming foster or adoptive parents.
(SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY)
The Adoption Connection
Zucchini is in an orphanage because his father left at a young age, and, in defending himself from an alcohol-induced beating by his mother, Zucchini accidentally killed her. Zucchini learns that the other kids in the orphanage have similarly painful histories. One is there because her mother was deported. Another’s parents had drug issues. Another’s parent had OCD. Yet another is there because her father killed her mother and then himself. Another is there because her father molested her. This is heavy stuff. Eventually, Zucchini and another child are taken as foster placements by the policeman who had initially taken Zucchini to the orphanage; Zucchini and his new sibling still maintain their friendships with the kids at the orphanage.
While it isn’t really a kid’s film, it is worthwhile viewing for people considering becoming foster parents. The kids that you’ll care for have likely experienced significant trauma of one kind or another, and there might be value in exposing yourself to some of the extreme things that kids in foster care have experienced. Like Mister Rogers said, “anything mentionable is manageable.” Films like this can help you develop the ability to talk about abuse, neglect, and loss, and this ability may help you better meet the needs of some kids in foster care.
My Life as a Zucchini provides an honest look at some of the harder-to-hear circumstances that bring kids into foster care. This could be important viewing for prospective foster parents.
The kids in the orphanage form a sort of family for each other, and the relationships do not end just because a child leaves the orphanage.
The police officer speaking to Zucchini shows warmth and concern, and uses the name that Zucchini prefers.
In the interest of balance – and while acknowledging that every entry into foster care is arguably traumatic – it’s important to note that every kid’s journey into foster care is unique, and many journeys into foster care do not involve these particular circumstances.
Zucchini’s mother dies on her way to give him what she calls “the spanking of his life.” Zucchini had accidentally made a loud noise.
A rather crude, childish explanation of sex might surprise some parents, and makes the film even less likely to be a good choice for young kids.
One child tries to understand Zucchini’s circumstances by prodding him unkindly, saying “your parents threw you out because they don’t want you anymore.” After Zucchini fights the boy, they share their stories and become friends. It’s interesting to see that as they move away from secrecy, they’re able to find healing.
Zucchini and Simon sneak into the orphanage’s office and read another child’s file.
One character’s aunt speaks abusively to her, and seems interested in taking placement of her only for the money she would receive; her efforts are thwarted through the efforts of the kids. Before the girl is saved from her aunt’s home, she says that if she has to go, she’ll either kill herself or kill her aunt.
My Life as a Zucchini isn’t for kids, but it’s certainly worth seeing for adults. It’s a well-made, intelligent film that may break your heart, pull at your heartstrings, and help prepare you to meet the needs of kids who’ve been through some very painful circumstances. As you watch it, think about how you might be able to help kids with similar histories.
Questions for Discussion
How would you help a child who’d experienced what Zucchini experienced?
Which kids caught your heartstrings? Why?
What would you need to do ahead of time to prepare to serve kids with histories like these? If you’re
already caring for a kid with a history like this, how can you help them feel comfortable talking about it?
How did Simon and Zucchini become friends?
How do you think it would have gone if the orphanage director insisted on calling Zucchini by some other name?
One child was very hurt when a stranger called him a liar. Why do you think that was?
Simon says “it’s rare or people to adopt kids as big as us.” Why do you think this is? Could you adopt a kid “as big as us?”