Cha Jung Hee was a fellow orphan at the Sun Duck Orphanage in South Korea in the 1960s. She and I had nothing in common and I did not know her personally. And yet, at age 8, just before I was sent to the U.S. to be adopted by the Borshay family in California, my identity was switched with hers without anyone’s knowledge. I was given Cha Jung Hee’s name, birth date, and family history and told to keep the switch a secret. Simultaneously, through a bureaucratic sleight of hand, my previous identity was completely erased. For years, Cha Jung Hee was, paradoxically, both a stranger and also my official identity — a persona unknown, but always present, defining my life. In In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, I search for Cha Jung Hee to finally put her erstwhile existence to rest by meeting her in real life and finding out how she has fared.
In the course of searching for Cha Jung Hee, I meet and interview a diverse selection of Korean orphans and adoptees, each with their own quests and extraordinary stories to tell. A biracial Korean-black war orphan, shunned by Korean society, who as an adult meets potential biological siblings; twins adopted and raised in France, who speak only the French language, on their way “home” to Korea to visit their birth mother; an orphan from the North who was sent with several thousand Korean War orphans to Romania who recalls the painful post-war years and what it was like to grow up in a boarding school in Eastern Europe; and many others.
These stories are contextualized within a history of adoptions from Korea starting with the Korean War. Together, they illuminate how adoptions from Korea are closely associated with U.S. military involvement on the Korean peninsula, the prosperity and optimism of American society following World War II, and Cold War politics, all of which have led South Korea to become the number one “exporter,” and the U.S. the largest “importer,” of adopted children in the world.
— Deann Borshay Liem
Deann Liem, Producer/Director
Deann Borshay Liem has more than 20 years experience working in development, production, and distribution of educational and public television programming. She was producer/director/writer for the Emmy Award-nominated documentary, First Person Plural (Sundance, 2000; Grand Jury Award, Best Bay Area Documentary, San Francisco Intl. Film Festival), and co-executive producer for Spencer Nakasako’s Kelly Loves Tony (PBS, 1998), and AKA Don Bonus (PBS, 1996, Emmy Award). She served as co-producer for Marianne Teleki’s Special Circumstances which follows Chilean exile, Hector Salgado, as he attempts to reconcile with former interrogators and torturers in Chile.
She is the former director of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA) where she supervised the development, distribution and broadcast of new films for public television and worked with Congress to support minority representation in public media. Deann is a recipient of a Rockefeller Film/Video Fellowship for her new feature-length documentary, Precious Objects of Desire, which is currently in production.
Charlotte Lagarde, Producer
Charlotte Lagarde's documentary Heart of the Sea: Kapolioka'ehukai (2002) about Hawaiian legend Rell Sunn was broadcast internationally. In the US, it won PBS Independent Lens Audience Award 2003, the Audience Award at both the San Francisco International Film Festival and the Newport Beach Film Festival, and Best Documentary Award at the Ashland Independent Film Festival.
Lagarde's productions Voting in America (2004), Every Child Should Have a Chance (2001), Tribal Sovereignty: Unplugged (1998), and Juvenile Justice: Unplugged (1997), are distributed in public schools throughout the United States, and the latter was screened at the White House for public policy makers. Lagarde's documentaries Swell (1996), about four generations of female surfers in Santa Cruz, California (Gold Apple from the National Educational Media Network) and Zeuf (1994), a documentary about a woman surfer's struggle with breast cancer (Directors' Choice award at the Black Maria Film and Video Festival) were broadcast on PBS stations and the Sundance Channel, and are currently in distribution on home video. Lagarde is the executive producer of 2005’s Reporter Zero, directed by Carrie Lozano (The Weather Underground).
Lagarde holds an MA in documentary filmmaking from Stanford University, and a BA in Political Science. She founded Swell Cinema in 1996 and teaches media studies in high school.