Film

MIFF Next Gen Review: Approved For Adoption

0 Comments 06 August 2013

Approved for Adoption is a wonderfully crafted film telling the true story of a Korean boy adopted into a Belgian family. In his MIFF Next Gen review, BEN CARDWELL notes that its first screening left a crowded ACMI cinema murmuring in appreciation.

Based on a comic book, Approved for Adoption tells the true story of a young Korean named Jung, who — after being abandoned on the streets of Seoul — finds himself adopted by a large Belgian family. Jung, both a real person and the director of the film, narrates the storyline drawn from his comic, and the story looks like a comic, with the tone of the characters’ skin giving colour to the many grey backdrops throughout the film.

Tthe film mixes early home video with incredible animation, an example of which depicts a scene in the backyard, as Jung learns how to ride a bicycle. He explains his mother’s hot temper, as demonstrated in her sheer frustration as a small Jung falls off the bike.

As the story unfolds, the film addresses many important issues, including a mix of general adolescence angst, dealing with angry parents and the stress associated with being an adopted orphan from Korea. Jung wasn’t the only one, it turns out: many Korean children were adopted all over Europe, as the trend of adopting young orphaned children became stylish. Jung was accepted into his new Belgian family, with his two new brothers, his elder sister Coralie, with whom he develops a close relationship, and Gael, a younger sister.

But Jung doesn’t like to talk to other Koreans and as a young boy becomes obsessed with the culture of Japan, adopting Japanese as his original nationality. In the room he shares with his older brother, Cedric, Jung’s posters and drawings of samurai clash with his Cedric’s more conventional interests. And when his family adopts another Korean, a young girl they decide to name Valerie, Jung struggles as he tries to come to terms with losing his previous role as ‘the Asian in the family’.

We also learn that Jung, possibly due to his complex and hard background, is a daredevil, exhibiting a type of behaviour that does not pair well with his mother’s temper. In one scene, she chases him around the basement with a whip, as a punishment for his mischievous ways. It’s hard to tell if this is an accurate account of what when on in the real Jung’s life, or just a metaphor for his mother’s harsh ways.

Live-action video shows Jung in the present day, now in his 40s, drawing buildings as he sits in a garden, contrasting him against the young, animated Jung, as he sits drawing how he imagines his birth parents. Later on in the film, we follow the real-world Jung as he follows the trail of old adoption paperwork all over Seoul, uncovering details from his past.

The idea of mixing actual home videos with animation is incredibly inspired, and it is executed extremely well. The animation is well drawn and wonderfully rendered, the colours and drawing style a nod to its origin as a comic book. The soundtrack is subtle and quiet, and at times, barely noticeable.

Approved for Adoption is a wonderfully crafted film, highlighting the life of the thousands of Korean children adopted and taken out of their war-torn homeland. The real Jung, as a Belgian, speaks French, and the film is completely in French. As odd as it sounds, the subtitles did not seem intrusive, with the colour and font complimentary to the animation.

Although not a long film, Approved for Adoption really was efficient with its impact on the audience, which left a crowded ACMI cinema at MIFF first screening murmuring in unison as plot details untwisted. The film tells a wonderful story, a true story, which leaves you wondering how many other stories are out there similar to Jung’s.

Approved for Adoption is screening at MIFF on Wednesday August 7. Visit miff.com.au for more information.

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There’s not much I can’t find some sort of interest in. Coming from Geelong, I write, play basketball and watch television, filling in the space with something resembling a high school education. I’m a massive Essendon fan and I have a young Border Collie who really likes to latch himself on to your clothes. If I could, I would live on ice tea and salt and vinegar chips, writing about sport and science fiction. Odd combination you say? Yeah, I get that a lot.

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