Film review: Somewhere Between (MFF 2011)

Somewhere Between

STARRING Jenna Cook, Haley Butler, Ann Boccuti, Fang “Jenni” Lee
PRODUCED BY Patricia Verducci, Linda Goldstein Knowlton, Bobby Chang, Jon Fitzgerald, Katie Flint
DIRECTED BY Linda Goldstein Knowlton

SHOT BY Nelson Hume, Christine Burrill
EDITED BY Katie Flint
MUSIC BY Lili Haydn

Screened at the Milwaukee Film Festival 2011

Fish out of water.

In the later 2000s, Linda Goldstein Knowlton and her husband planned to adopt a Chinese baby, and decided it would be best to be prepared for the questions this child would ask, growing up as a cultural outsider. So Linda found four female Chinese teenagers who were adopted by American families in the early 90’s as a result of China’s One Child Policy (we’re told 80,000 of 175,000 adopted Chinese children worldwide live in the US) to learn from their experiences. And much of our screen time – certainly the favored, dramatic portion – involves one girl traveling to China and tracking down her real parents. For better or worse.

1: Fang. Confident and outgoing at first glance with a becoming vulnerability not too far from the surface. Wants to “prove her dad wrong” for thinking less of her gender, and the rest of China for that matter. Travels to China and helps a young girl with CP get adopted into America. A tremendous accomplishment.
2: Jenna. The poor thing cannot shake her abandonment issues and believes her perfectionism is merely a form of compensation. Seeks zen mode through crew captaining, yoga (the relaxing aspects of which take some adjustment), figure skating.
3: Ana. Awkward wallflower who, to the filmmaker’s chagrin, is curiously unaffected by her heritage. I liked Ana. Perhaps it is her easygoing and/or insouciant nature which caused her to be not featured prominently in the film. At all.
4: Devoted Christian southerner adoptee whose only wish is to sing on the Grand Ole Opry like her blonde-haired, blue-eyed older sister. Haley receives most of the film’s attention since she tracks down her Chinese family, via delayed DNA testing, and actually meets them. And I can’t be the only person who found this reunion slightly awkward… her parents being, after all, uneducated rural farmers who spoke no English (and Haley speaks no Chinese).

It’s a nice film and I teared up a few of times, though that may have been just me. I guess, in a way, identity is something I took for granted. Can’t help but feel I’d have the same opinions as Ana. ‘Always being looked at’ would bother me more than ‘never fitting in.’ Oh, and we spend a short amount of time with the leader of an organization whose goal is to prevent international adoption. He has all sorts of pragmatic reasons involving fraud and bald inconsistencies in the adoption process. I think we should hear more on this.

written by David Ashley