________________ CM . . . . Volume XI Number 1 . . . . September 3, 2004


To My Birthmother.

Beverly Shaffer. (Director). Beverly Shaffer & Mark Zannis (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2002.
54 min., VHS, $99.95.
Order Number: C9102 074.

Subject Headings:
Adoption-Canada-Case studies.
Adoptees-Canada-Case studies.
Birth mothers-Canada-Case studies.
Teenage pregnancy-Canada.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Saache Heinrich.

*** /4


When I first spoke to you on the phone and told you who I was, your initial response was very quiet, "Oh my God, how did you find me?"

There was so much else to talk about at the time, that I never really answered your question. Now that we're not in contact anymore, I thought maybe you would want to know how I found you and why I looked.


To My Birthmother is the story of Marie Klaasen's personal journey of finding her biological mother. While growing up in a loving home where each of the four childrens' adoptions were openly discussed and celebrated, it was not until the birth of her first child that prompted Marie to realize that "this [was] the first person related to me by blood that I have ever met." She then begins a year-long search for her biological mother, hoping to discover where she came from. This film effectively shows how adoption affects so many lives in a multitude of ways.

     The film opens with Marie's relaying her birthmother's question, "Oh my God, how did you find me?" Throughout the film, Marie answers this question by directly addressing the camera. This format, in addition to Marie's narration, seems to give the viewer the ability to gather an invested interest in Marie's story as it unfolds. As indicated in her opening narrative, the viewer embarks on this journey with Marie, learning what steps she took to find her biological mother.

     In two amazing coincidences, Marie (a nurse who gives prenatal classes to teenage girls) discovers that she works in the very same Toronto maternity home to which her 15-year-old birth mother was sent in the 1960s. Marie is able to acquire the non-identifying information from her adoption files, further information from a meeting with her social worker, and information gathered from her own research at the Toronto Reference Library and through reviewing old telephone directories. However, it is through her husband's uncle and his wife in Timmins, Ontario, that Marie is finally able to track down a phone number for her biological mother. Along the way, she discovers and meets her sister who was also given up for adoption three years prior to her own birth.

     This film has appeal to anyone whose life has been affected by adoption. Although this is Marie's story alone, we are able to discern how the people in her life react to her journey of self-discovery. We meet Janine, Marie's biological half-sister. The two sisters openly discuss their own feelings about their biological mother. Whereas Marie feels a need to find her birth mother, Janine has no desire to meet her and feels that it would only open a Pandora's box. We also meet Marie's adoptive parents and hear their support in this journey and gratitude to the biological mother for the gift of Marie. Marie's husband also shows his support and reaction to this new relationship. Although we do not meet Marie's birth mother on camera, we do learn how happy she was to initially hear from Marie and then how difficult this contact becomes. Her teenage pregnancy is a dark secret, one she cannot tell her family, and she eventually finds that maintaining this secretive relationship to be too stressful and requests no contact from Marie. This film could effectively end at this point. However in an after-thought to the film, we read that a year later Marie's biological mother sent her a card asking if they could start over in building a new relationship.

     Winner of the Bronze Plaque Award, Columbus International Film & Video Festival (2002)


Saache Heinrich is a children's services librarian for the Saskatoon Public Library.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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