News / USA

New Documentary Explores Chinese-American Adoptees

Haley Butler is one of four Chinese-American adoptees chronicled in the new documentary "Somewhere Between."Haley Butler is one of four Chinese-American adoptees chronicled in the new documentary "Somewhere Between."
x
Haley Butler is one of four Chinese-American adoptees chronicled in the new documentary "Somewhere Between."
Haley Butler is one of four Chinese-American adoptees chronicled in the new documentary "Somewhere Between."
Since China enacted the one-child policy in the late 1970s, tens of thousands of Chinese children, mostly girls, have been adopted around the world. Since 1989, over 80,000 have been adopted in the United States alone. 

Four of these adoptees are the subject of the new documentary, “Somewhere Between,” in which filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton chronicles the lives of Chinese-American teenagers as they struggle to find themselves.

Haley, one of the subjects, jokes at one point in the movie, “I’m a banana. I’m yellow on the outside and white on the inside.”

Knowlton says her interest in the topic stems from her own experience adopting a child from China, particularly after she and her husband joined a one-year reunion of families who had also adopted children from China at the same time as they did.

“I really wanted to explore identity and how my daughter would develop her identity, growing up in a transracial family,” she said.

Adolescence was particularly intriguing to Knowlton because “there is a part of it where all you want to do is stand out. Then all you want to do is fit in.”

“I thought it would be a very intriguing place to start, to talk, to see what it would be like to be adolescent in a transracial family,” she said. “Instead of going to talk to experts, parents and all that, I realized there were thousands and thousands of girls experiencing adolescence that were adopted from China. So I thought I wanted to go talk to the experts, and have the film be from their point of view.”

The film follows Haley, Jenna, Ann and Fang, all typical American teens except for having been born in China. Over three years of filming, the four meet with other adoptees, some go back to China to reconnect, deal with stereotypes, all in a universal quest to find their identity and a sense of belonging.

The four come from different backgrounds, representing urban and rural, diverse areas and homogenous ones. Jenna, for example, attends the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, while Haley is deeply Christian and home-schooled in Nashville, Tennessee.

“I wanted each of these girls to represent in a way for this whole big group,” Knowlton said. “But there is no one way to feel about being adopted. No one way to feel about being born in China. There’s no one way about being a teenager.”

She added that there is a range of how much the subjects think about being adopted, how much they think about birth families, how much they struggle or don’t struggle with their identities and racial stereotypes.

Both Haley and Fang, for example, nurture their connections with Chinese culture, each going back to China regularly. Fang, who has been back every year since she was adopted, has a more unusual experience, as she was adopted at the age of five, not as an infant.

Knowlton accompanied her on one trip during the filming.

“To see things through her eyes and see how in her lifetime, China has changed and what she’s observed about it was fascinating,” Knowlton said. “Going back to Kunming, where she was from, and for her to say ‘oh wow, it is so built up. This wasn’t old China. It isn’t the China that I remember.’”

Haley helps keep connected to China through a charitable organization her family set up, which helps children who are still in orphanages by providing medicines and other supplies, Knowlton said. Yet Haley also has a uniquely American dream. Hers is to be the first Chinese-American to perform in the Grand Ole Opry, a weekly country music stage event in Nashville.

The filmmaker said exact numbers of orphans in China today are hard to come by, but she did say there are orphanages, better known as social welfare institutes, all across the country.

“They are not always talked about,” she said. "Some of them have got much more public attention because they are now where elderly people are living. They are like old age homes a little bit. They have also turned some of them into schools for some of the older kids that aren’t being adopted.”

Despite the numbers, Knowlton said adoption is harder than it was just a few years ago.

“There is now a much longer wait,” she said. “For my husband and I, from the day we filled out our paperwork until the day we held our daughter in our arms, it was fourteen months. Now people waiting about four or five years for a healthy child.”

Knowlton said there are two main factors driving this trend. First is the rise of the middle class, which means more people can afford the fines for having a second child. Second is that China is trying to promote in-country adoption.

“All countries would prefer to have their children to stay in their country,” she said. “I guess they’ve been working toward making that work.”

“Somewhere Between” has garnered many positive reviews.

“I’ve had Caucasian men come up to me after a screening and say ‘I’m not adopted, and my children aren’t, and I’m clearly not Asian or a girl, this film is my story,’” she said. “I’ve had a range of people say to me either the first or second generation immigrants say this is my story.”

At a recent screening in Kunming, China, Knowlton said one young man said afterward that he, too, felt “in between” because he comes from a rural area but had to go to the city for an education and to make money. 

“I wanted to make this film for a universal broad audience because we are all somewhere between at different points in our lives,” Knowlton said. “The themes of family and belonging and identity, to me, are the most universal themes possible.”

Jenna adds at one point in the film, “I don’t think I could consider myself fully Chinese or fully American. No matter where I am in my life, I’m always going to be sort of somewhere in between.”


You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Holly from: Canada
October 02, 2012 1:09 PM
I think objectively the girls are sooo lucky to be adopted by someone who care and love them more than their birth parents, or were able to care and love them more than their birth parents. They can accomplish much more and are treated much better than in China. Of course my utmost respects go to the adopting parents for their biggest heart and love. I was never in the adopting process (aka, raised by my biological parents and raising my own kid), and I can't imagine what it takes to raise other people's kids and also help them seek the identities. There should be a film/documentary about the adopting parents.


by: JK from: Viet Nam
September 22, 2012 5:41 AM
The Chinese Americans are actually doing a great deal in the contribution for the development of the US. We share with them their sentiment in the status of being somwhere between. Because not only in the US, but many countries in this world, they do the same. Love you all, the generations that were, are and never will not be forgotten.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid