Before we get to the topic at hand, lemme tell you about another screening I went to a last week. Not going to tell you which film that was, because I walked out in the middle -- yes, it was that good. But the focus of that film was on this family that was straight out of the Twilight Zone, totally unreal. Honestly, these guys would've given Donna Reed the hives -- the only time you usually see people this loving, nourishing and supportive on the screen is when they're trying lure gullible strangers down to the torture chamber in their basement. But there were no thumbscrews or branding irons for these guys; you were supposed to take them at face value. Nobody in his/her right mind could do that.
That, of course, is a worse-case scenario, but film, documentaries included, have a tendency of viewing the family as if there was some sort of ideal that could be attained through hard work and lots 'n' lots of love. It's only natural -- we all want to see people pulling together to solve their problems. But anyone who makes the regular pilgrimage home for the holidays knows better -- the interchanges within any family are seldom tidy, and the problems that arise there are rarely prone to stock solutions.
Travis and Tovah, the two Jewish lesbians who are the heads of the house in the new documentary Off and Running, eventually find that out when they decide to adopt an African-American baby. The baby girl, Avery, grows up to be a loving daughter, a good student and a top-notch athlete. She even manages to open up a line of communication with her birth mother. Initially, this is a good thing, then not so good when the woman stops responding to Travis's letters. As filmmaker Nicole Opper shows, that sudden silence becomes the catalyst for a drama that explores a young woman's quest for identity and a family's struggle to deal with issues not covered in 101 Handy Tips for Raising Your Adopted Teenager.
Opper talked with me about what happens when one's planned exploration of joyous, adoptive parenthood takes a sudden detour into unexplored territory, and what it's like when your teen subjects are more and more accustomed to living the public life. Click on the player below to hear the interview.