The lights dimmed, and the humming discussion of the audience grew still. We all sat, transfixed, as the screen came to life. We were all there to witness Angela’s story. The story of an adoptee seeking to find some closure for the gaping uncertainties in her identity and history.
* * * *
When Bryan Tucker first contacted me several years ago, he was making a documentary film called Closure. The film was about his wife Angela’s search for her birth family. Angela is an African American adoptee who was raised by Caucasian parents in a multi-racial family, and she longed to discover her history.
After messaging back and forth with Bryan on Facebook, I became interested in spreading the news about his Kickstarter campaign to support the film.
In 2013, Bryan wrote the following as a guest post for Portrait of an Adoption:
“I’ve got this idea for a documentary,” I say to my friend. “What’s it about?” he asks. I reply, “My wife, Angela, being a trans-racial adoptee searching for her birth family.”
This conversation never actually occurred with said friend, or with anyone for that matter, but it’s happened in my head many times. In my mind, I understand my imaginary friend’s reservations. First off, the relationship between documentary filmmaker and subject can be an intimate one, depending on the film and the story. Now add to that relationship the fact that your main subject (and wife) sleeps one room over from the office where you’ll be editing this film for the next two years. Things could get complicated.
Furthermore, how could I — a Caucasian male– objectively tell a story about trans-racial adoption centered around three female characters? Despite all this, I pressed forward.
Before meeting Angela, I never knew anyone who was adopted. We started dating in college, and I went to meet her family so they could approve of her new boyfriend. Angela had been reluctant to tell me much about her family beforehand, so as not to “scare me off”. But rather than scare me, I was intrigued, and felt right at home in their presence.
I was amazed to learn that her parents adopted seven children, all with special needs, over the course of a decade, with five of them being of a different race. With trans-racial adoption being such a hot topic among American society today, I knew that someone had to tell their story – someday. I did not know that someday would be five years later, and that someone would be me.
It began with Angela asking me to film our trips from Seattle to Chattanooga to capture the priceless moments of meeting her birth family. Fearing she would never meet them again, Angela wanted video footage of these encounters so that she could hear their voices and see their faces for the rest of her life via video. Understandable – considering that she had been using her imagination for twenty-six years.
Even after watching the footage thousands of times I still find myself in tears, sometimes in the same moments, sometimes in new ones. Some of this footage can be seen in a two-minute trailer, found here.
My life has changed for the better since meeting my wife and her family. Aside from loving Angela for being the beautiful woman that she is (inside and out), I’m thankful for what I know about adoption because of her.
I went from being unaware to becoming a passionate student of all the cultural and societal effects that originate with adoption. I’m proud to offer a documentary that features a dramatic and beautiful story told from the strength of three women who are each strong for different reasons: birth mother, adoptive mother, and adoptee.
* * * *
A lot has happened since then.
Closure, a 77-minute film that was released in 2013, has become a critical success. The film has been screened across the country, and it is an important addition to the national discussion of adoptee rights. The film won a Staff Award for Best Film at the 2013 San Francisco Documentary Film Festival.
And on the evening of Wednesday, March 11, 2015, I joined an incredible community brought together by The Cradle to watch a screening of Closure documentary in downtown Chicago.
Truth be told, I cried and laughed at multiple points during the film. I cried when I saw how Angela’s family wholeheartedly supported her search for her birth family, traveling far and wide with her to find some answers.
I laughed when the film captured some of the trivial moments of crazy normalcy that are common to every family, regardless of race and socioeconomic status. I cried when witnessing the pain of seeing what adoption sometimes means to the adoptee. This was the hardest part for me, as an adoptive mother, because I know that it comes with the territory, no matter how much I wish I could spare my own daughter her pain.
After seeing the film, I asked Angela a couple questions about how her life has changed since Closure was made.
Carrie: How has your sense of self-identity evolved since meeting your birth family?
Angela: The biggest change I’ve noticed since meeting my birth family is the freedom felt in simply knowing. No longer having to expend subconscious energy in looking at every single middle-aged, black woman’s face to see if she may be my birthmother is a great relief. I feel that I have more energy to devote to other hobbies, interests and passions now.
Carrie: Has meeting your birth family changed your relationship with your parents? (adoptive parents)
Angela: We all have had plenty of experience expanding our family via adoption, foster care & foreign exchange students, so now the addition of birth family members is simply another dynamic that provides a basis for more complex, stimulating and inclusive conversations. So, in some ways it’s more of the same, but just a new cast of characters. It’s all very exciting.
All of us at Portrait of an Adoption are so grateful for the chance to learn from Angela and Bryan! What an incredible, beautiful couple filled with love and respect for each other!
Click HERE to bring a screening of Closure documentary to your community.
Click HERE to buy a copy of the DVD of Closure documentary to watch at home.
Check out Carrie Goldman’s award-winning book Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs to Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear.