Donna and Jeff Sadowsky, Fang (Faith) Sui Yong
CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
I would defy anyone who works with or on behalf of children to watch Stephanie Wang-Breal's touching documentary Wo Ai Ni Mommy (I Love You Mommy) without shedding a few tears. While the ability to elicit tears may not make a documentary great, especially given the inherent sympathetic material here, such a response is certainly affirmation that Wang-Breal has managed to tap into the heart and soul of the people involved in the film, which centers around the Sadowsky family's adoption of Chinese born Fang, an 8-year-old girl who will become part of the Long Island family with the Americanized name Faith.
Wo Ai Ni Mommy has been on the film festival circuit throughout 2010, including being a recent selection of the 2010 Indianapolis International Film Festival and a win for Best US Feature at Silverdocs. The good news? The film is scheduled for a showing on P.O.V., PBS's award-winning non-fiction showcase on most stations on August 31, 2010.
While it is always tempting in these types of films to become mesmerized by and grateful for the family's who travel abroad, endure arduous application processes and spend thousands of dollars to bring children to the U.S., in the case of Wo Ai Ni Mommy it is the young Faith who is simply, utterly and astoundingly mesmerized. Wang-Breal followed this adoption journey for 1 1/2 years and, over the course of this time, Faith's transformation from a timid, scared child to a wondrously alive and vibrant child is nothing short of amazing.
This is not to say that there aren't moments that fit that American stereotype, where it feels like the Sadowsky's are literally force-feeding the young girl a sort of baptism by fire of American culture complete. Yet, it would be difficult to deny after watching the film that the Sadowsky's are quite matter-of-factly passionate about the young girl being their daughter and in helping her adjust.
Wo Ai Ni Mommy points out that since 1992 over 70,000 Chinese children have been adopted by American families, most of them infants or young children. Faith is an exception, an 8-year-old with a clubbed foot as a disability. She's also different in that at the time of the adoption she was living with a stable foster family and, as well, a foster sibling with whom she'd bonded quite deeply. In other words, her adoption was traumatic and, initially, her adjustment to the idea of adoption at least moderately resistant.
While the majority of Wo Ai Ni Mommy plays out with tremendous authenticity and naturalism, it likely goes without saying that in the film's rather slight 77-minute run time there will be at least a couple moments that ring a bit melodramatic or having been picked out of the 18 months worth of filming for their dramatic impact. It's an incredibly slight fault, but definitely worth noting.
In the end, however, you would be mistaken to consider Wo Ai Ni Mommy a film about adoption. This is a film about family and about the myriad of ways in which love can heal us and empower us to blossom.
It's a rarity that one is able to view such a fine documentary usually only seen on the festival circuit or in other select settings. Do yourself a favor and turn into P.O.V. on August 31st to catch this film for yourself.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic