The Woman You Look For

“Sometimes the person you look for doesn’t want to be found.”

A documentary animation in development that examines adoption, displacement, spectral and radical kinship.

Stories of the orphaned child figure prominently in our collective imagination. From the biblical stories to contemporary tales of Tom Sawyer, Little Orphan Annie, Pippi Longstocking, Harry Potter, and the Star Wars series the orphaned child is a recurring archetype. We see the orphan on film, in novels and comics, embarking upon the heroine’s journey, seeking to re-connect what has been divided and set asunder. Looking for roots, the orphan searches for the family connection that was lost, to mend what has been broken. This yearning for the reunion is the orphan’s Achilles Heal–the backstory that makes our hero uniquely vulnerable, and loveable. In the mythical journeys of the orphan, the natal parents are found and revealed as great people–often rulers and warriors possessing goodness and inspiring wisdom. The lost child is joyfully reunited with the beloved and at last, they know: their roots are worthy. But what purpose does the ‘Heroic Orphan’ serve? Why do Western societies need this story? What uncomfortable truths might they occlude? In what ways does the adoptee embody the colonial project of Tabula Rasa?

Historically, the adoptee was often viewed as a kind of empty slate. The adoptee was fashioned as a chosen child of suspect origins who was lucky to have a fresh, clean start. Although the adoptee is not necessarily an orphan–presumably their natal family is alive–the residual experience for many adoptees is one of orphanhood and the questions that all adoptees are asked are: Do you know your biological family? Will you search for them? The adoptee lives with the haunting, the life-long mystery of her ancestry. As an adoptee myself I have often felt a combination of longing to know, and fear of knowing. I have wondered if perhaps a personal tabula rasa is not such a bad thing. There is no guarantee of what one will find once the search begins for people who have vanished and disappeared. Dispossessed from my family of origin, cut away from my ancestral heritage, I have learned in an embodied way that identity is amorphous, in perpetual construction, and more than lineage.

 

Credits

  • Written and directed by Darcy Alexandra
  • Illustrations and backgrounds by Siobhán Twomey