Last Monday, I went to the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and I saw In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee by Deann Borshay Liem, who also made the movie First Person Plural.
It was an AMAZING movie, especially for people who do not know that much about adoptions from Korea. The movie was informative, interesting, and heartwarming.
You can see more about the movie and Deann here, taken from an article on the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival's website:
INTERVIEW: DEANN BORSHAY LIEM
KOREAN ADOPTEE SWITCHEROO: FINDING THE REAL ‘CHA JUNG HEE’
Although documentary filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem had already delved into the topic of her identity as a Korean adoptee in her film FIRST PERSON PLURAL, there was a lingering issue that she felt was still unresolved, still nagging at her—the issue of Cha Jung Hee.
When Borshay Liem arrived in the US, no one thought to question her passport and papers stating that she was an orphan named Cha Jung Hee. The Borshay family had been corresponding regularly with the orphanage in Korea, sending money and receiving pictures of a girl named Cha Jung Hee. But that girl disappeared from the orphanage just as the Borshays wrote to say that they would like to adopt her. The orphanage arranged a switcheroo, replacing Cha Jung Hee with Borshay Liem, who was instructed not to reveal what had happened.
But six-year-old Borshay Liem knew that it was all a lie—her own family was still alive, and her name was not Cha Jung Hee. By the time she learned to speak English, she had already forgotten the truth about her history. It was not until college that she began to have flashbacks to her time at the orphanage, and that she became haunted by the idea that she was living someone else’s life.
IN THE MATTER OF CHA JUNG HEE documents Borshay Liem’s journey back to Korea some 50 years later to find the real Cha Jung Hee and solve the mysteries of her own identity. The film is screening at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival on Monday, May 3 at 7:00 PM at the Downtown Independent. BUY TICKETS Bearing her adoption documents, the shoes that the Borshays had sent to the orphanage, and a handful of photographs, she tirelessly searches for women her age named Cha Jung Hee.
“At first I think I had a simplistic notion of what the journey was,” said Borshay Liem. “That I would find this person and it would be fairly easy and I would give back her things and this would help me resolve these years of mistaken identity. But it turned out to be much deeper than that.”
Part of her journey includes meeting a diverse array of women named Cha Jung Hee. Even if they are not the right Cha Jung Hee, seeing what their lives are like is still an important piece of her puzzle.
“These women were all my generation, and I think through hearing about their struggles and successes, their experiences growing up in Korea which would have been similar to my own life if I had stayed, it gave me an insight and a connection,” she said. “I felt that was very healing for me. I think that girl adoptees are told that if they had stayed in Korea they would have been prostitutes, or end up with some terrible fate. But these women grew up and they did struggle but they had also survived and in some cases flourished.”
The film unfolds as a personal essay, with Borshay Liem narrating her own process of questioning and discovery. Through the course of the film she begins to understand with more clarity her relationship to her adopted and birth families, to the US as a country, and to herself. She believes that making the film has given her some closure on the issue of Cha Jung Hee.
“I think part of it has to do with simply claiming this life that I’m living now as my own,” she said. “In part that’s what the search was about, to allow myself to embrace my life as my own and not having belonged to someone else. I’m here and it’s ok that I’m here.” BUY TICKETS
-Lori Kido Lopez