Every day, other adoptees out in the world are searching for their birth parents. Very few of them actually document the process – showing and relating what it is like to go through this process in real time and what it feels like. The 2013 documentary Closure is about Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee, looking for her birth family over a span of two years and finally meeting her birth family for the first time. Angela is presently well-known for her writing and film producing/directing.
Themes and Tones
This film hits home hard and checks all the boxes when it comes to relatability. It wholeheartedly lets you see through adoptees’ eyes as to what they are going through and their ‘why’ when it comes to searching for their birth parents. It definitely tugs on the heartstrings, but it also gives ample examples of ways communities and adoptive parents can better support adopted children, specifically transracially adopted children. Angela and her family articulate extremely well what thoughts and emotions are presently occurring or may occur when going through the process of finding her birth parents.
This film explores the complexities of going through the process of finding the adoptee’s birth parents, especially when it is a closed adoption versus an open adoption, it also explores the complexities of identity, race and culture when it comes to transracial adoption and what different family or parent models look like. Closure relates to transracial adoption through the challenges a transracial adoptee may face when searching for their birth parents and wanting to find out who they are as a person and where they come from racially and culturally.
Early on in the film, we see an intimate scene of Angela calling her birth mom, Deborah, for the first time – leaving us on a cliffhanger as the film brings us back to the very beginning, where it all started. The story begins by introducing the Burt family, who have one birth child and several adopted children, including Angela. The film then goes through a timeline of events regarding Angela’s life. This sets the tone for all of the intimate emotions and personal interviews or stories with the adoptee herself, her adoptive family and husband and birth parents and extended birth family that will take place.
The Adoptee’s Why
The documentary takes you through the real time process of Angela desiring to find her birth mom and discovering both of her birth parents and extended birth family. Angela states part way through the film that she always thought she would be going through this journey all alone, as it is so personal to her. But now, being in the midst of it, she says she couldn’t imagine her family not being there with her.
Throughout the film, other parts of Angela’s adoptive family speak about their thoughts and feelings going through this process with her. This part of the documentary relates to transracial adoption because Angela’s adoptive sister, Elena, talks about her trepidation, acknowledging that she felt a bit “insulted” and wondered why their parents weren’t “enough” for her sister. When most adoptees, especially transracial adoptees who are adopted by a family not of color, aren’t looking to replace their adoptive family. Rather, they’re looking for someone to fill in those blanks. Someone who looks like them, has similarities when it comes to physicality or certain traits. Someone who can teach or share with them about their culture and community when their adoptive family cannot. A similar example is the story The Ugly Duckling – the mother duck in the story cannot teach the baby swan how to be a swan because she is a duck and can only teach it what it’s like to be a bird. In the same regard, you may not be the same race as your child, so you cannot teach him or her the specific traditions of their birth culture or what it feels like to look different because that is something unique to the individual.
Different Racial Identities and Experiences
Identity and race are never directly brought up in the film. As stated by Angela’s adopted mom, Teresa Burt, “[We] never talked much about mixed-race issues with adoption. I don’t know why. It just didn’t seem to matter. We just looked at each child as a person. And what their needs were and if we could help with any of those needs.” Identity and race are indirectly shown through setting, physical features, inherent environmental opportunities and side commentary from bystanders throughout the film.
For example, Angela was raised in Bellingham, Washington, a predominantly white neighborhood, and presently lives in Seattle, Washington. Whereas her birth parents and extended birth family live in Chattanooga, Tennessee where the communities are predominantly of color. Also, strangers at the grocery store would make comments like “where are those kids from?” and Teresa would state that the children are her kids. She’d say that they’re from Bellingham – pointing out that they are a large multi-race family. However, Angela’s adoptive mom expresses throughout the entire film with verbal communication and support that Angela is still her child, and she treats her just like the rest of her children. This example relates to transracial adoption because Angela constantly faced challenges or learning experiences about racism and tolerance because her adoptive parents were white.
Another example is that Angela immediately noticed physical similarities when meeting her birth dad, Oterious “Sandy” Bell in June of 2010. After Sandy met Angela and they both took a DNA test, he discussed what it felt like to be a father at the age of 54, “So, all my life, I’ve been told out of three boys and three girls in the family, that I was unable to have kids. Turned my whole life around. I didn’t think we needed to take a DNA test, myself. She looked exactly like me.”
Other examples that identify differences in identity and race are the indirect opportunities Angela was able to have growing up as a child (i.e being told by doctors that she would never walk, be a marathon runner, play basketball, go to college, or get married.) Even her birth mom, Debroah, talks about how she used to wonder how and where Angela was and if she was cared for. She questioned if she could have taken care of Angela any better than her adoptive family, even though she knew deep down she couldn’t have. She said, “I talked to God about it, and He said it was going to be okay.” This relates to transracial adoption because Angela was provided a loving home and opportunities in her life that her birth mom always wanted for her, but was unable to provide due to challenges she faced and the physical setting she was living in at that time.
Just like Angela’s adoptive mom, Teresa, says in the film, “Whether good or bad, they are all the pieces that each of us have in our life. Although identities, physical setting, race and other things may be different or look different for all of us, they are a part of what makes us who we are.”
How Closure Relates to Transracial Adoption
Although this film is quite the tear jerker, it was also documented more like a vlog. It’s as if you’re right there with them, following Angela and her family along through this process. You’re given a glimpse of what being an adoptive parent, transracial adoptee and birth parent/family looks and feels like. By being informed of the potential challenges a transracial adoptee may face versus a child who is not of color, this work of art takes you on a journey of experiences adoptees are likely to face when part of a closed adoption versus an open adoption, and how they seek closure.
As Angela’s birth mom, Debroah, said at the end of the film, “Through a child one day, we all got connected, whether we knew it or not. And for the rest of my life I will be connected.” Some way or another, whether by birth or adoption, every child and every parent and every extended relative will always be connected because they, together, make up a family.
Adoption Choices of Colorado
For more information on adoption please contact Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can be reached via our website or phone 303-670-4401.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Taylor Tsakopulos, the bestselling student. She has interned locally in Denver and internationally in Dublin, Ireland, taken classes/workshops and worked odd jobs and yet always comes back to being a student and the desire to learn or create.
When she isn’t creating content she’s off dancing and hiking. Always chasing after new things and experiences. After living and working in Europe she is hungry for more.
CLOSURE. (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from http://closuredocumentary.com/
(n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://www.amazon.com/Closure-Angela-Tucker/dp/B00H8B87ZE