by Addison Cooper, LCSW
You may have seen ReMoved already. Since its recent release, the haunting, award-winning short film about a girl taken into foster care has been seen more than three million times on Vimeo, and it is already being used as a training tool for foster care and adoption agencies who want to help their prospective foster and adoptive parents understand the emotional impact of foster care from the perspective of a child.
The film features a young girl who is separated from her parents as a result of domestic violence in the home. She is separated from her baby brother and is placed in a foster home, and although the home is loving, sometimes the girl’s behaviors reflect anger and pain. Eventually, she is reunified with her brother in the foster home and begins to have hope for her future.
The film is the product of Nathanael and Christina Matanick, two 20-something filmmakers from Southern California. They were surprised by the widespread acceptance of their first film, and in response to feedback from viewers, decided to make a sequel. The second film—at present, titled ReMoved Part 2—was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. It will continue to focus on the girl in foster care, while also exploring the perspectives of adults involved in her case, including birth parents, foster parents, and social workers.
In addition to its applicability to my work as a foster care and adoption supervisor, ReMoved also illustrates the potential of film as a tool for systemic change. Christina Matanick, who wrote the first film, explained that she and her husband were inspired to make a film about foster care because of the training they received en route to becoming foster parents themselves. One of the agency social workers showed them a slideshow-type presentation that included written and spoken statements of children in foster care. The children’s emotions had such an impact on them that they wanted to find a way to bring that experience to the larger public.
Christina Matanick explains, “People interact with foster kids all the time but don’t understand their experience. I don’t think the experience of kids in foster care is public knowledge, and ReMoved is intended to help change that.”
The Matanicks have big plans for the sequel. They hope that the film can have an impact on all segments of its audience. They want foster parents to understand and have patience for the challenging behaviors of kids in care. Christina conveys her vision for foster care, saying, “If there are more than enough families that are willing to serve as foster parents, then counties can select the best-suited families. We hope the film encourages families to consider foster parenting.”
The Matanicks’ vision for the film also extends to families who have had children removed and taken into foster care. Christina relates feedback she received from one woman whose children were taken into foster care years ago. Although she had reunified with her children, she had perceived tension between them and herself about their time in foster care, and ReMoved helped them understand each other.
Christina hopes these films can encourage people to identify and process the abuse and neglect they’ve experienced, because by processing it, they become less likely to repeat it. The filmmakers hope the film ultimately improves the lives of children by improving foster care and helping to prevent abuse. Christina says, “We’re dreaming big, but film is powerful, and it shapes culture. We really believe that things can change. Film has a way of helping people understand what’s happening, in a way that other media doesn’t.”
The Matanicks hope that their films are seen by many more millions, and that they are used as tools by foster and adoption agencies. They explain that it’s people and communities, rather than films, who create change in the world, “but if ReMoved can inspire people, it can be part of a cumulative effort to making systemic changes.” It can accomplish this as it connects powerfully and emotionally with its audiences.
So far, reports are that it has been doing that.
For more information, see http://removedfilm.com/.
Addison Cooper, LCSW, is the founder of Adoption at the Movies (www.adoptionlcsw.com), where he invites families to use film to engage each other in important conversations. Find him at www.facebook.com/AdoptionAtTheMovies or on Twitter @AddisonCooper.