Approved for Adoption, a hybrid film about adoption and mixed identity
by Aurore Engelen
14/06/2012 - In the 1960s, almost 200,000 Korean children were recommended for international adoption. Most of these children were, or at least were assumed to be, the children of mixed unions between western soldiers and Korean women. These mothers were often marginalised and found themselves forced to give up their children for adoption. After he is found walking the streets on his own aged 5, the narrator is handed over to an orphanage. He is first sent to the United States via the Holt Foundation, then finally adopted by a Belgian couple who already have four children. Jung wills himself to forget his Korean origins to best adapt to his new life. His relationships with his parents and siblings are sometimes turbulent, but they are first and foremost based on love -- even if, at times, one or the other appears to have forgotten to read the user manual. Just as he embarks on adolescence, Jung and his family are joined by a newcomer, little Valérie, a Korean orphan whose name has been changed to sound more French. It’s a great shock for Jung, and he starts questioning his own identity. Confused, he tries to find himself different origins and plunges into Japanese culture. He rejects both his Korean origins and his adopted family. But a desperate cry for help will allow Jung to reconcile with his mother (from whom he had drifted the most). With time, tensions will fade, Jung will slowly accept his mixed origins, and, eventually, he will embark on the journey to find his roots.
Approved for Adoption [trailer] is adapted from a comic book by Jung (the film’s co-director). After reading the book, co-director Laurent Boileau made contact with Jung to find out if he had already travelled to Korea as the adult artist had promised the little boy in the comic book. He suggested that they make a documentary about this unique moving journey, one that then not only brought Jung closure, but also allowed both artists to think about making a much more complex film, a hybrid work, a mixture of genres, as if in response to Jung’s mixed personality. Approved for Adoption is a unique cross between autobiography and documentary, comic book (2D sequences) and animation (3D sequences), autofiction (the trip to Korea), documentation (Super 8 family movies) and history (archive footage about the Holt foundation, for example). Within the first few minutes, the film manages to establish a delicate balance so that transitions from archive footage to animation go almost unnoticed, and the mixture of formats harmoniously conveys this autobiographical maze, that evolves from quasi-documentary scenes to others that are re-enacted or even imaginary. In the end, the film is endearing, even moving when the author adopts the less realistic form of his comic books.
Approved for Adoption was a difficult project to produce and has counted on many partners. It is produced by Mosaique Films and Artémis Productions, along with a Korean production company and Swiss producer Nadasdy Film. The project received support from the CNC, the CCA, Wallimage, the Tax Shelter, France Télévisions, the RTBF, and the RTS. It was released in France on June 5 (distributed by Gébéka Films) and in Belgium yesterday June 13 (Cinéart). Wide Management is in charge of international sales. The film was recently screened at the Annecy Animation Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award, and yesterday was screened at the Brussels Film Festival.
(Translated from French)