Approved for Adoption is a unique animated documentary by Jung Henin that traces his unusual upbringing as a Korean adoptee in a Belgium family. Jung tells his story by incorporating real family footage and mixing it with his own animation and drawings. It helps the viewer to witness how stuck Jung feels between his two cultural worlds. The animated portions of the film illuminate how powerful the arts can be for a person as Jung uses his drawing abilities to both escape from his world and express himself without fear or judgment.
The film documents Jung’s adoption journey from the first day he meets his four adoptive siblings to his eventual return trip to Korea as an adult. Along the way the film touches upon his emerging sense of identity, which creates conflict at home and triggers the latent biases of his adoptive family. When his family adopts another baby from Korea, Jung is forced to confront his identity as a transracial adoptee. Jung explores his inner emotional turmoil through a series of vignettes that are at times humorous and at other times sad. He discusses the internal conflict and emptiness that many other Korean adoptees feel and how it impacts their ability to live happy, fulfilled lives.
Jung captures the perspective of the adoptee in a personal and honest way. He reminds the viewer of what it feels like to be an outsider, to need to feel loved, to feel lost in the world, and to always be searching for his birth mother. Another unique perspective that Jung captures is of his adoptive parents. The viewer feels the pain and rejection that Jung experiences when his adoptive mother tell him he is a “rotten apple.” The viewer gets a sense of how deep these words impact Jung’s inner sense of worth and reiterate the message that so many adoptees feel of being bad, not good enough, or worthy of love. As Jung acts out in school and at home the viewer gains an understanding of the emotional weight that is behind his behaviors.
Jung’s ability to capture latent and adolescent development of the adoptee is captivating. There are some scenes of a sexual nature that may not be appropriate for younger children. Overall, this is a remarkable and unique movie that everyone should see – not only for the adoption piece but also because of the brilliant incorporation of the hand drawings and animation.
By Kelly DiBenedetto
Boston Post Adoption Resources