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May, 2010

You'll Laugh, You'll Cry: Two Documentary Reviews

I love documentaries and I recently had the opportunity to see two awesome documentaries and I hope you will check them out too!

The first film I saw was the much hyped and super adorable, Babies. The fine people at mPRm Public Relations extended an invite for an early screening and I jumped at the chance. I had seen the trailer a few times and couldn’t wait for my chance to see it. And this is coming from a mom who is NOT a baby person!

I’m pleased to report that the documentary is as enjoyable and smile inducing as the trailer. Unless you’re a baby hater, I don’t know how one could not enjoy this film, however I do think parents will enjoy this film the most.

Through the static lens of the camera, director Thomas Balmes shows us the lives of four new humans in four different cultures – Mongolia, Namibia, Japan and the US (San Francisco). It is a true documentary, void of narration or backstory, as the director simply lets the babies’ actions speak for themselves. There’s really not much more too it as far as the description goes, but some the moments he and his crew manage to capture on film are truly breathtaking.

If this film taught me anything as a mother, it’s to stop worrying so much about my child’s development and to avoid overstimulating her. Yes, I live in Los Angeles and my daughter is growing up in a highly competitive and faced-paced environment. It’s important for her to keep up, but it’s just as important for her to just be sometimes. To let children be children. Aside from cultural differences, babies are same all over the world and this film does a beautiful job at displaying the universal truths of human nature.
Documentary number two was In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee – the follow up film to Deann Borshay Liem’s, First Person Plural. Deann is a fellow Korean adoptee and has become a personal friend over the years, but I assure you, even if you have no connection to the Korean adoptee community, you will find her story fascinating. I saw this particular screening as a part of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival.

The brief backstory (without any spoilers) of Deann’s life, is that she was switched for another girl during the time of her adoption from Korea to the United states in the 1960s and told by Korean social workers not to reveal her true identity. The adoption was finalized and her adoptive, American family believed they were receiving the girl they had sponsored from abroad for so many years – Cha Jung Hee. In Liem’s first documentary, she tells the story of her adoption, her upbringing in California and the discovery of her falsified identity. It is in this first film that she goes in search of her true birth family in Korea.

In Liem’s new documentary, which isn’t a true sequel, but a companion or follow-up film, Liem battles cultural red tape and social barriers of Korea on a search for the woman who’s identity she has had almost her entire life – Cha Jung Hee. Honestly, I don’t want to say much more because the story is so compelling and one that she tells best. Furthermore, she tells her story with such candor and even humor, baring her emotions throughout the process so that you may take the journey with her, I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

While I believe viewing her earlier documentary, First Person Plural, beforehand offers a richer viewing experience, it is not necessary as Deann does cover the backstory of her adoption in the 2nd film. To learn more about her films and especially to make a donation to help fund her next documentary, Memories of Forgotten War , visit her production company’s site, MuFilms.org.

Happy movie watching! Have you seen any great ones lately?! Please let me know. I’m dying to see Food Inc.


Leave Your Comment

  1. aimeesue says:

    Glad you liked In the Matter of… It's so fascinating and compelling and sad. Both First Person Plural & In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee will be airing on PBS in August & September http://www.pbs.org/pov/tvschedule/ if people are interested in seeing them. Food Inc http://www.pbs.org/pov/foodinc/ was on PBS last month and you might be able to find it in reruns. If I would have known I would have had you down while you were in MN…I have it on my DVR, but haven't watched it yet!

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