After writing about some documentaries on adoption that used to be, but are no longer, available for online viewing, I finally went to the PBS site and found one that is still up—but not for long. If you want to see Girl, Adopted, you’ll have to watch it before the end of this month.
Documentaries are at their best when the filmmakers step out of the way and just let the subjects of the films speak for themselves. That seems to be what happens in Girl, Adopted. It presents the story of Weynsht (pronounced win-shet), who, at the age of 13, is adopted from an orphanage in Ethiopia by a family from Pyatt, Arkansas. The ups and downs don’t come in the adoption process itself—with the finalization providing the climax. Instead, the adoption is the beginning of the story, with the relationship between Weynsht and her new parents supplying the joys and frustrations.
Near the beginning of the film, Melanie, the adoptive mother, says, “We feel like everything happens for a reason and in perfect timing, and I think that we were meant for her and she was meant for us.”
After living in Arkansas for some time, Weynsht shares her own view. “Things happen for a reason sometimes,” she says, “and I still just waiting for a reason.”
Throughout the film, covering five years, Weynsht voices competing emotions concerning America, her parents, and her own identity. And, as young people often do, she talks a lot about love and hate.
Soon after her arrival in the States, she voices her love for Usher, her mother, a Barbie doll, and Wal-Mart.
Later, she says to her white girl friends, “I love you hair.” And when she talks about her desire to find another family, she tells her parents, “I never say, ‘I love you, too,’ because I hate you.”
After more time has passed, Weynsht says, “I really like being Ethiopian person, but I hate being black,” and, “I hate my hair.”
When her father takes Weynsht and her sisters to Ethiopia to visit her orphanage, she finds out that she has an older brother, and her confusion deepens: “I don’t care. I do care, actually, but . . . ,” she says. “I’m just . . . so many things in my head.”
Her mixed emotions turn to anger when she thinks that her father is forcing her to meet her brother. And then she’s afraid: “If I met my brother, why would I want you guys? What makes you think I need somebody else? If I have a brother, I’m wanna stay with my brother.” Then she adds, “And I don’t want that ’cause I love you guys, and just stop.”
Girl, Adopted is certainly not a simple advocacy piece for adoption. In fact, while Weynsht’s father, Chris, concludes that adoption is “worth it, even if it’s hard,” he also says,
At one point, I thought that everyone should adopt a child. It’s something that everybody can do. All they’d have to do is just open up their homes and their hearts and let a kid in, but I don’t really hold those same views today. I don’t think that everybody should do it. You have an idealistic view of adoption, and then as you go along, the details of that view are filled in.
Chris, Melanie, and Weynsht are brave to have let the cameras follow their lives for five years. I’m glad they did, because the result is a compelling work that helps the rest of us fill in a multitude of powerful details.
Produced and directed by Melanie Judd and Susan Motamed, Girl, Adopted (2013) is part of the Global Voices series from Independent Television Service (ITVS) and the WORLD channel. The 78-minute video is available for online viewing until October 30. It can also be purchased on DVD.
[photos courtesy of ITVS]