Unlocking the Heart of Adoption chronicles the filmmaker’s journey as a birthmother interwoven with diverse personal stories of adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents in both same race and transracial adoptions. These stories span 70 years, from ALICE, a birthmother whose child was adopted out without her consent in 1922; to RON, an adoptee who uncovered the truth after his parents died when he was 36; to PHYLLIS, a birthmother and ALISON, an adoptive mother in an open adoption with twin boys born in 1991. The film includes interviews with three mixed-race transracially adopted people: DEBBIE, a Japanese American woman; PAUL, a Filipino American man and MARTIN, an African American man with HAL, his Caucasian adoptive father.
Their stories provide a window into the lifelong process of adoption following the path of relinquishment, adoption, growing up adopted, raising an adopted child, years of silence and shame, and searching for answers to unasked questions. In the process, they explain what the universal issues of "identity" "loss" and "needing to know the truth" mean to them.
The people in the film stirringly reveal, with honesty and some times humorous candor, the enormous complexity in the lives of normal people when impacted by adoption. Bridging the gap between adoptees, birthparents and adoptive parents by showing the commonalty of their experiences.
Many candid snapshots touchingly enrich each story. Throughout the film, as filmmaker Sheila Ganz tells her story, she constructs a life-size sculpture of a mother holding her baby in a hospital bed using chicken wire, bamboo, burlap and plaster commemorating the 10 minutes she was allowed to hold her newborn daughter. Historical footage is threaded through the film and serves as an illuminating background.
Unlocking the Heart of Adoption gives the viewer a powerful way to understand what ‘adoption as a lifelong process’ means today.
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