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Film Becomes Tool For Advocacy Over Russian Adoption Ban

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Filmmaker Sarah McCarthy is an accidental activist based on coincidental timing.

Her original intention to make the documentary The Dark Matter of Love was to show how three Russian orphans settled into family life after being adopted by a Wisconsin family. She was fascinated by the topic. There was nothing political about her creative endeavor.

Now there is. McCarthy is using her film to raise awareness for more than 300 American families who are caught up in the process of trying to bring home Russian orphans. These heartbroken, grief-stricken families are stymied due to the ban Russia enacted on Jan. 1 prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian orphans. Many of these children, including some with special needs, have met their would-be adoptive parents.

McCarthy, the British director best known for her previous film, The Sound of Mumbai, is using her new-found bully pulpit to call upon President Obama to make stymied mid-stream Russian adoptions a topic of discussion at next month's G8 Summit later this month. She has gathered 62,000 signatures on a change.org petition. And, from June 3 - July 5th, she's running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for distributing and marketing the documentary.

"I spent two years with Masha (one of the three adoptees) during the making of the film and I witnessed the difference the love of a family can make to a child who has grown up in a Russian orphanage," said McCarthy.

I wholeheartedly understand McCarthy's urges to capitalize on her project for the purpose of advocacy. I too understand what a family means to an adopted child. A decade ago, my husband and I brought home our daughter Julia from a Siberian orphanage. The early circumstances of her life never leave my consciousness. In fact, I have poured my experience about raising my child into a forthcoming memoir, also to raise awareness about adoption.

But as of Jan. 1, I too became an accidental activist because my heart breaks for the Russian orphans who are languishing in limbo while top elected officials make some attempt at dealing with this problem behind closed doors. All the rest of us can do is keep the topic front and center, in whatever means we have available to us.

I'm hoping The Dark Matter of Love will be seen by as many viewers as possible who will feel compelled to put pressure on American and Russian officials to reach a compromise, as least for the in-process families.

U.S. officials first had a chance to see the 90-minute film when it debuted at the Capitol Visitor Center at the Capital Building in Washington, D.C., in late April. The film will be shown at the Moscow International Film Festival in June. McCarthy says that families fighting to bring home their babies will have a chance to make their appeals directly to Russian officials in a panel discussion after the premiere.

After Moscow, in early July, the film will screen at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Istanbul to representatives from 56 parliaments.

A lot of eyeballs will see this film. But I'm hoping enough of us leave the theater with a mission in their heart.