Sitting alone in my living room in my favorite chair, alone in the house I cried. Watching the documentary, Wo Ai Ni,(I Love You) Mommy on PBS a deep sadness shrouded me.
This is a documentary on transracial adoption and it follows the Sadowsky family who adopts an 8 year old girl from China. The film maker Stephania Wang-Breal, follows Mrs. Sadowsky as she travels to China to meet and bring back their new daughter to the United States.
In an interview on the PBS website,(http://video.pbs.org/video/1579183817/), Donna Sadowsky, the mother of the Sadowsky family states, “We documented this trip to show the cultural assimilation that happens when children come in to the United States with a foreign language or coming from other countries.”
To Mrs. Sadowsky even after seeing the documentary she is very excited and proud of how she is portrayed and sees the films as a great way to show others that it is possible to adopt older children internationally and that the adoption of older children can be successful.
I wonder if Mrs. Sadowsky and I saw the same film.
What gave her so much joy made so very sad.
At their initial meeting, the 8 year old adoptee, instantaneously loses her Chinese name, Sui Yong, which is replaced with Faith Sadowsky and the new Faith seems overwhelmed and in shock. From this point on frame by frame the painful process of stripping everything Chinese from this darling 8 year begins.
Immediately, Mrs. Sadowsky introduces flash cards to help teach Faith her new language. Time after time, Faith is exhausted but Mrs. Sadowsky keeps pushing her to learn more English. It is evident that Faith is expected to become an English speaking American and the thought of the Sadowsky’s learning any Chinese or doing anything to accommodate Faith’s culture never blips on the Sadowsky radar. They do enroll Faith in Chinese classes but they don’t seem to stop the melting of Chinese from Faith’s mind.
Early on over and over Faith is made responsible when there is a breakdown in communication. In Mrs. Sadowsky’s mind, it is Faith who is choosing not to communicate in her new language purposely refusing to speak.
The misunderstandings are often cleared up with the help of the film maker, who often acts as a translator.
Later in the film, as Mrs. Sadowsky, is watching Faith at her swim lessons, she retells another joyful moment. She explains that now after Faith has been in the United States for 8 months, her Chinese is disappearing and the frequent phone calls to China to talk to her foster family are less frequent. It is becoming more and more difficult for Faith to speak Chinese with her foster family and in frustration, after a recent phone call with her foster family, to her mother’s sinister delight, Faith says she doesn’t like the Foster family anymore.
One more layer gone.
Walking away from this film, I felt bad for Mrs. Sadowsky because I was convinced that once she saw the completed film she would easily see the same film I did and she would realize how sad it was to watch the “assimilation” of her daughter. What was even sadder was watching the post film interview of Mrs. Sadowsky. The fact that she missed the obvious message and slant by the film maker was sad.
For those that missed it, the video can be viewed on the PBS site. Just click on this link, Wo Ai Ni Mommy