News / Arts & Entertainment

Documentary Follows American Family’s Russian Adoption

The Dark Matter of Love, A Documentary on One American Family’s Russian Adoptioni
X
November 27, 2013 9:46 PM
A documentary that tells the story of three Russian children adopted by an American couple has become especially relevant in the wake of Russia’s 2012 ban on U.S. adoptions. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Carolyn Weaver
The Dark Matter of Love opens with home video showing Cheryl Diaz holding her newborn daughter, Cami, her oldest child with husband Claudio. It’s an apt beginning for a documentary exploring the science of human attachment through the story of the couple’s three other children, adopted from Russia several years ago.
 
The Diazes, who live in the Midwestern state of Wisconsin, had wanted more children, but failed to have another successful pregnancy. So, when Cami was 14, the family traveled to Russia - accompanied by a documentary film crew - to adopt five-year-old twins Marcel and Vadim, and an unrelated girl, 11-year-old Masha.
 
Australian film director Sarah McCarthy says she had wanted to make a documentary about the science of infant attachment, love and parent-child bonding. She found the Diazes through University of Virginia psychologist Robert Marvin, an expert in therapy with families of adopted and foster children.
 
“I wanted to meet the family before they adopted three new children, and I wanted to see what happened to them as they went through that process,” she said. “And when I met the Diazes, I just feel instantly in love with them. They sent me some hilarious pictures of themselves in matching pajamas at Christmas, and I just thought, this is the family I’m going to spend the next couple of years with.”
 
In fact, McCarthy and her cinematographer moved in next door to the Diazes for a year and a half. Their camera captures many poignant moments, as the family begins a difficult adjustment.
 
Claudio is exhausted, and he and Cheryl pull away from each other. Cami feels displaced, no longer the focus of her parents’ attention. Masha is emotionally withdrawn, while the twins resist authority with all their five-year-old might, throwing tantrums and yelling insults at their new father in Russian that he, luckily, does not understand - although the film’s subtitles enlighten the viewer.
 
“It’s difficult for parents to understand the behavior of the adopted children,” McCarthy said,“because they will just push you away and push you away, and it’s not because they’re evil or because they’re trying to hurt you. It’s because they’ve grown up in an orphanage and that’s the way they’ve learned to survive.”
 
McCarthy interweaves scenes of the family’s life with archival film documenting the early study of parent-infant bonding. The science of attachment began in the 1950s and 1960s, with British psychologist John Bowlby, who theorized that infants need a secure relationship with at least one person who cares for them consistently and lovingly in order to develop normally emotionally and socially.
 
“Having a relationship with one or a few specific people is absolutely crucial to a child’s developing brain, and if the child doesn’t have that partner, then those neural networks don’t get laid down,” Robert Marvin explains in The Dark Matter of Love.
 
In the 1960s, an American psychologist Harry Harlow carried out experiments with rhesus monkeys deprived of their mothers. Film of those early experiments, with baby monkeys seeking comfort from cloth-covered wire “mothers,” is a chilling hint at the emotional lives of children growing up in orphanages where there may be one caregiver for every 25 children.
 
“And that adult, even with the very best of intentions, can’t give the child they interaction they need to learn and feel good about themselves,” McCarthy said.
 
But research also shows, she noted, that young brains can rewire, and that orphans can thrive once they are in a loving family, as the Diaz children have. “The kids are just blossoming and flourishing in the most extraordinary way,” she said.
 
The Dark Matter of Love
has become unexpectedly relevant in the wake of Russia’s ban in 2012 on U.S. adoptions, which halted 300 adoptions underway. McCarthy is now using her film to campaign against the ban.
 
“I think the law was politically motivated,” she said. “Having lived an adoption story with Masha, Marcel and Vadim, I was there when they met their family, and I saw these little kids who’d spent their lives in orphanages, wishing for the day when a mother and father were coming to take them away and that day comes, and that dream just comes alive for these children. And there are 300 kids out there who have had that process interrupted. What do you say to a three-year-old child who’s asking for that mum and that dad that came to see them?”
 
Adoption in Russia is still comparatively uncommon, she observed, with minimal governmental support for adoptive families. The future of children raised in Russian orphanages is bleak. When children age out at 17 or 18, they often end up living on the streets, resorting to crime or prostitution to survive.
 
McCarthy titled her film after the substance that astronomers hypothesize must exist to account for much of the mass that is missing from the universe.

“Dark matter is responsible for 70 percent of the known universe, and we know very little about it. And love is responsible for at least 70 percent of who we are as people, and we know very little about how that works,” she said.
 
The Dark Matter of Love has aired on British television, and played to strong reviews at film festivals in the U.S. and Canada. It has also been screened in Moscow and other cities by groups lobbying for repeal of the ban.

Interview by Victoria Kupchinetsky.

You May Like

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings: Nnekai
|| 0:00:00
...  
🔇
X
August 26, 2015 2:42 PM
Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.

Nigerian singer, songwriter Nneka sits down with Border Crossings host Larry London to perform songs from her latest CD, "My Fairy Tales" and to talk about her inspirations and influences.