The Story of Adoption

19 August 2022

They were born in South Korea, Brazil, Australia, Rwanda and Sri Lanka. They were all adopted. All grew up in France. And today, they tell each other.

Une histoire à soi , a feature-length documentary written and directed by Amandine Gay, in theaters from Friday August 26, for a rare time, gives the microphone to the main stakeholders in matters of adoption. Not the adoptive parents, even less the institutions, but indeed the children… grown up. A step back which makes it possible to propose, beyond the intimate, a downright political angle to the discourse.

“We come from somewhere. We are the fruit of a prior history. We all come from someone”, said one of them, analyzing his career.

“The idea is to show that adoption is not a limited moment in time,” explains the director in an interview. “But let it last a lifetime. »

An idea in tune with the times, exploited earlier this year by Nicolas Ouellet in his web series You come from where , then next year by Phara Thibault in his autobiographical monologue Chokola , on the boards of the Little Unicorn.

It lasts, it lives in someone for a lifetime, and it also evolves. All it takes is the birth of a child (one's own), the loss of a loved one (the adoptive parent?), and also a letter (from a biological parent, for example), for the past to resurface. A war, a natural disaster, a media scandal in the country of origin, and adoption also reappears, illustrates the director, for whom there is no doubt: “Adoption is political. »

She knows something about it, Amandine Gay, having herself been adopted, although “locally”, as she says (and not internationally).

All the inequalities that exist in adoption in general are magnified in international adoption.

Amandine Gay, director

Adoption is political, she explains, because it typically “moves” children from one background to another. A first environment, poorer and disadvantaged, in a second, generally more affluent. A child from the south, to the north. “But what does it mean, moving a child from one environment to another? she wonders. When you come from a favela in Brazil and you grow up in a bourgeois environment in Europe (non-fictional example, told in the film), “how do you then get closer to our communities, how do you negotiate this social displacement? ".

Let's say that we are far from the fantasy of reunions at Disney.

An archival film

These political questions also arise for the viewer throughout the documentary, albeit in all subtlety. For good reason: archival film in the strict sense, Une histoire à soi only counts, for any image, the photos and videos of the families (from yesterday to today), in addition to a few excerpts, here and there, of media or historical archives. As only narration: the voice - over of the protagonists. The stories of five distinct characters (Joohee, Mathieu, Anne-Charlotte, Niyongira and Céline), with backgrounds as varied as unique.

In this archival film, we made the choice not to show the participant [today], to plunge [the viewer] into the life story. The idea is to dive into their stories.

Amandine Gay, director

All without falling into emotional or tearful pathos or sensationalism. Although tackling head-on the questions of identity (and this constant feeling of having "the ass between two chairs"), of gratitude (and of the myth of the so-called "saved" child), and of the eternal "uprooting".

To do this, the director met nearly a hundred people, made a number of recordings, searched mountains of family photos. In the end, she kept only five stories, the most complete in terms of documents, distinct, but nevertheless relevant to her narrative framework. "The idea is that they speak with one voice," she says.

If adopted people can recognize themselves in her film, Amandine Gay will have won her bet. Above all, if the general public can experience a moment of empathy here, it will be even better. So that one day, we finally put an end to the “you're lucky” and other “where did we find you? », so grossly misplaced.

At the Cinémathèque québécoise, starting Friday, August 26