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Film Mon Jan 14 2013

Somewhere Between: An Interview with Filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton


For Chicago-born filmmaker Linda Goldstein Knowlton, her latest project, Somewhere Between, has a special meaning; the feature-length documentary, which follows the lives of four young Chinese women who were adopted by American families, is a subject that hits close to home. "It's my first personal film," said Knowlton. "It's the first film I've made since being a mother."

Here, Knowlton, an adoptive mother of a Chinese daughter, discusses the documentary and its importance in addressing "issues of identity, race, and gender" as told through the eyes of the adoptees.

Did the idea to do this documentary come solely from having adopted a daughter who is Chinese or were there any other contributing factors?

I have to give credit where credit is due--it was all about my daughter, Ruby. As a filmmaker, I explore questions that I have about the world; as my husband and I were in the process of adopting our daughter, I was in post-production on my first documentary, The World According to Sesame Street. As we were going through the process, a lot of questions came up. I was thinking about her life and I knew I would do a film based in the world of adoption. I didn't know exactly what it would be but as time went on, instead of thinking about babies, I started thinking about adolescence, which is a time of wanting to stand out and wanting to fit in. I thought, "Well how is that going to be different for my daughter growing up in a transracial family?"

When thinking about how your approach to the film, what did you initially envision?

There are thousands of girls who are now teenagers who were adopted from China when they were babies, so why not talk to the professionals? I felt strongly that I wanted the film to be from the girls' point of view; it's not often that girls, and girls of color, are given a public voice. For me, that was hugely important for it to be their story, their lives, and their experience.

Once filming got underway and you began to talk to the girls, meet their families, etc., what ran through your mind?

Well, I wasn't out to prove anything--I didn't have an agenda; for me it was about identity development. I think they knew that because I was an adoptive mom, they knew they could trust me. It was about a real honest human communication. It was about exploring their experience.

The girls you chose for the documentary live in different parts of the country--was that by design?

I knew that I wanted girls from all across the country. I reached out to a few organizations, told them I was looking for teenage girls and I got some recommendations. I spoke with other girls who were equally articulate, but as a filmmaker, I had to trust my gut; when I met these [particular] girls, I immediately knew they were my people. They also fulfilled my diversity of geography by living in Tennessee, Berkeley [California], Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.

Transracial adoption, especially where celebrities are concerned, is viewed a bit differently--some have called it a "trend." During your filming and traveling for Somewhere Between, did this ever float across your mind?

Here's how it floated across my mind: I think people are very flip with talking about adoption. It's not a "trend"--it's a human being--it's one of several ways to create a family. The caustic and flip things that people say about it being a trend is uneducated and it's really unfortunate. The real bummer is that it affects the kids.

As a filmmaker and a mother, what did you take away from the film?

I learned I became a tiny less neurotic as a mother! [Laughs]. In real seriousness though, my big takeaways are that there is so much we have to learn from each other. It taught me a lot about how little people know about the world and language of adoption. But what I learned firsthand and what I feel in my gut is that through the generosity of these four young women that it's so much better to express our feelings and not be afraid of them, and if we embrace our feelings, we come out in a positive way.


Something Between runs through Thursday, January 17 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport; for ticket information and show times, visit the website or call 773-871-6604.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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