Documentary follows an adoptee’s journey

After more than 20 years, Angela Tucker had her first conversation with her birth mother, only to have her mother deny any connection to her.
Alumna Angela Tucker, SPU’s program coordinator for Disability Support Services, shared her adoption story at the screening of Closure: A Documentary About Adoption in Demaray Hall on Thursday evening.
The event was hosted by the John Perkins Center to foster discussion on trans-racial adoption from the perspective of such adoptees.
Filmed and edited by Bryan Tucker, a 2008 SPU alumnus and Angela’s husband, the documentary followed Angela’s two-year journey to locate her birth family across the country and reconcile with the birth mother who put her up for adoption.
“It started out as Angela just asking me to record as much as possible of the reunion trips to Chattanooga for our own family to process the experience,” Bryan said during the discussion after the film screening. “Once we got back from the trips and everything had come full circle, I was convinced that we could really tell a story here.”
In the documentary, Angela says that as an African-American adoptee raised by Caucasian parents, the need to uncover the origins of her genetic and physical traits motivated her search.
“I had held an interest in finding my birth family for a long time, and I was curious about my genetics — where I came from and who I looked like,” Angela said. “I needed to know my origins.”
With only three documents from her closed adoption, Angela first located her birth father, Oterius “Sandy” Bell, in Chattanooga, Tenn., her birth place, in 2010.
Upon travelling to Chattanooga and meeting Sandy, Angela discovered that her birth mother, Deborah, had kept the birth and adoption of Angela a secret from both sides of her birth family.
Angela’s arrival was a welcome shock to the birth family members who had not known of her existence.
Unfortunately, Angela’s first encounter with Deborah caused her reunion to take a turn for the worst when her birth mother denied any connection to her.
“I didn’t quite believe that she would deny me,” Angela said of the first encounter with Deborah in the film.
After several phone calls and another trip to Chattanooga, Angela and her birth mother were able to connect and reconcile with the adoption that they say has shaped both of their lives.
Angela and Bryan said they filmed the documentary with the aim of providing an unbiased representation of adoption from the adoptee’s perspective.
“In watching the documentary, I want people to see that there is pain in the process as well as joy,” Angela said. “It’s still a beautiful thing but it’s also confusing, which makes it so complicated.”
Angela said her hope for the documentary was to highlight trans-racial adoption specifically and show how recognition of this diversity is vital for adoptees placed with families of different racial backgrounds.
During the conversation following the film, Angela talked about the challenges of growing up in a family and community that did not physically resemble her.
“The reality of being surrounded by people who did not look like myself was that a lot of times I did try to resemble them any way I could, just to blend in,” Angela said. “It’s funny to me now because I’m proud of my race, but it was a long way to get here, and it was a challenge.”
Angela also said trans-racial adoptions are more obvious because the child looks different than the parents.
“I think it’s important for kids to see people who look like them,” Angela said.
Freshman Bria Jeanice said she was interested in the film because someone in her extended family recently adopted.
“It was really interesting to see a film from the perspective of the adoptee,” Jeanice said. “The only other adoption movie I can think of is Juno, which is obviously unrealistic, so it was good to see something there are not many of.”
Bryan and Angela said they will continue to show the film to further discussion on the importance of family and diversity.
Closure: A Documentary About Adoption has been shown at multiple film festivals across the country.
Bryan plans to sell copies of the film at screenings and online.
“Sometimes adoptees are afraid to search for their birth families, but there is this innate desire to connect with their roots that pushes them,” Angela said. “We wanted to show that perspective in this film.”

This article was posted in the section News.