1. Bryan, what made you decide to make your wife’s search for her adoptive family the focus of a documentary?
Bryan: Initially when we had plans to fly to from Seattle to Chattanooga to find and hopefully meet (who we thought was) Angela’s birth father, Angela asked me to keep the camera rolling as much as possible just to have footage of the incredibly overwhelming moments. Angela’s fear was that if we found and met all of these people who were potentially her birth relatives, she would be so caught up in emotion and internal chaos that she would miss all the details that she’d traveled so far to experience. When we revisited a year later in 2011 with the hopes of meeting more birth relatives, I upgraded my camera and purchased a decent microphone, with the hope that I could capture the story cinematically. I only shared that idea with Angela at the time, since there was a strong possibility I would not pursue that route. After returning home from that trip and reviewing all of the footage I was convinced that there was a story to tell, with compelling footage to back it up. Thus began an ongoing conversation with Angela in which the main questions was – “Do you want your story to be shared publicly?” We went back and forth on it for a while. I knew it was a tough place for her to be in, since she is naturally very private and introverted, but also a supportive wife and knew this was an idea I was excited about. She’s passionate about educating others about transracial adoption, and so ultimately I think her decision to go forward with the film came from that motivation.
2. Angela, were you surprised by the way the first meeting went with your birthmom?
Angela: I don’t know that anyone can truly have a realistic expectation of how such a reunion would or should go. It was never my intention to simply show up unannounced, which is why I’d spent years calling random phone numbers hoping that she would pick up on the other end. I sent countless letters in the mail to addresses hoping they would reach her, and sent emails to email addresses I’d found after detective work. I hired a confidential intermediary after being unsuccessful in my attempt to obtain my original birth certificate from the state of Tennessee. When all of these attempts failed, we made the decision to simply drive by her home when the opportunity arose. Everything that happened after that was a surprise to me. I don’t think there is a perfect way to search, which is why I’m glad to see the era of closed adoptions coming to an end.
3. Angela’s adoptive parents seemed very supportive of the search . . . any advice for family members of adoptees on how best to support them if they search?
Angela: My family was quite supportive in my journey – this does not mean they were without their own fears and reservations of being replaced, but they chose to put these personal fears aside, and think about how life looked through my eyes. My mom has told me that if she were in my position she would have also wanted to know where she came from, how and why she was placed in another family. It is my hope that other adoptive parents can take this approach, while understandably possibly feeling their own feelings of apprehension and nervousness. I feel that it would’ve been more confusing had my family not been supportive, as they’ve supported me in other identity forming ways i.e. hobbies, interests, activities etc., why would this be any different?
4. What were some of the cultural differences in your adoptive family and biological family? How have you navigated those differences?
Angela: There is oftentimes a great difference in terms of socioeconomic status, educational levels, values and beliefs, and unfortunately cultural differences as well between adoptive families and birth families. I’m thankful that my parents were aware of their own white privilege before choosing to adopt children of different races. This allowed all of us to experience our own culture under the acknowledged lens of being raised in a predominately white area. We were aware of other cultures (not just our own biological cultural roots), as they sought to make sure their friendships and communities were those with diversity in their own lives. They worked hard to make sure that our own cultures were represented positively within our own household, though it may not have been well represented outside of our home. I remember my mom searching through catalogs (pre-internet days) trying to find a black cabbage patch doll to go with my collection. She also wrote in to Band-Aid to encourage them to consider brown or clear band aids, as obviously their peach-ish color did not equal “flesh-tone” as the box was labeled.
5. The name of the film is Closure . . . do you think closure is ever possible in adoption?
Angela: I don’t know that closure can ever be gained from any deep and meaningful endeavor. I interpret the title of Closure to represent my goal at the outset of the searching journey. The reality is I’ve been left with more questions and curiosities even though I’ve (almost) completed what I’d set out to do. Closure is an apt, appropriate title for a film, yet personally, it feels largely unattainable.
Bryan: It’s a dangerous assumption that there can be closure in complicated stories like many adoption stories are. Each time I watch the film, I’m reminded of how Angela’s story reveals the many complex aspects of adoption: pain, beauty, shame, love. I’m glad the word closure is never said in the film, but I can’t help but hear it expressed in the language of many characters – the most surprising example being Angela’s birth mother. Ultimately I hope that when people watch the film, they don’t consider the title a declaration, but instead a question (does she haveclosure?). Only Angela knows the answer to that question, but now that the story is out there – to each their own opinion
If you are interested in seeing Closure (and if your life or the life of someone you know is touched by adoption in any way, you should be!) you can order a DVD or digital download from this site The digital download of the film is 30% for the month of December with the promo code BIG30.