Review: Adoption documentary highlights current migrant separation issue

Fran Partlett, Film Analyst

Approved For Adoption (Couleur de peau: miel), a 2012 French-Belgian-Korean animation based on Jung Sik-jun’s cartoon autobiographical novel, is the fish you never reel out of the water.


The documentary-animation follows South Korean Jung’s hand-drawn exploration of his early childhood, having been adopted at age of five by a Belgian family in the 1970’s.


Peppered into the mostly animated sequences, are live-action moments of the now 43 year old Jung reflecting upon a narrative he is simultaneously creating and editing.


This fusion of styles seems to betray Jung’s lack of awareness of form and an insecurity that circulates on his identity crisis.


The movie’s series of episodic vignettes all have the same bland honey-grey wash. A delicate yet bland palette that, though true to Jung’s roots of graphic novel art, makes me think this film is a weak imitation of the Ghibli films. I would brush this off as mere loyalty and yet I see Miyazaki’s influences in Jung’s nightmare sequences.


In one particular scene, an inanimate tree menacingly spreads its roots, reminding me of Princess Mononoke’s Demon Boar- albeit with a strikingly lower frame rate.


That being said, the intriguing choice Jung and co-director Laurent Boileau made here was the choice to layer 3D figures over a 2D setting.


Combine this with the brown and grey rendering, and you have something akin to 90’s retro horror games like Silent Hill.


Aesthetics aside, Approved for Adoption raises contemporary questions of separation anxiety, cultural identity and child development. In the day and age where we see children separated from their parents at the Mexican border, we question: what is the future of the children that never return to their parent’s arms?


Jung tells a story of a child accepted by his young peers regardless of his background, but also highlights the ignorance of the older generation, as an adult in one scene, upon noticing Jung, says: “I forgot about your little Asian.”


The rebellious nature of Jung’s toddler and teenage self stresses the notions that even though adopted children may not recall their origin, they will be affected by and inevitably search for it.


Thus I find it matters little that disparate filmic styles are utilised to mediocre effect.


The magic of this movie comes from its timelessness; the social commentary that can be identified by all “lost souls.” Where symbolic beauty lies in the testimony of a grown man still questioning his identity, utilising the nostalgic escapism of art.


So, Donald. What have we learned? 9/10.