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Movies with adoption themes or adoptee/adopter characters

In addition to listing stories which have adoption as a central theme, we also list stories in which the adoptee/adopter status of characters is just a fact mentioned in passing and does not dominate the narrative. We believe these stories are equally important in showing that adoptees and adopters function as normal families, with the same types of bonds and conflicts that biological families have.

[Warning: Spoilers present in story descriptions below.]


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The Twelve Kingdoms

Story:

The Twelve Kingdoms is a lush animated epic set in a fantasy world inspired by ancient and medieval China. In this alternate universe, women do not bear children and all children are adopted. A married couple who wants a child will make their wish to Heaven and tie a ribbon around a branch on a special tree. If their prayer is granted, that branch which bear a fruit which contains a child. There is no concept of 'biological' parenthood as there is in our world. Children may belong to a different species from their parents (for instance, a child could be a human or a hanjyuu - shapeshifter with animal form) and siblings can look very different from each other.

The heroine is Youko, a seemingly normal Japanese schoolgirl who, unknown to herself, is actually a transplant from the Twelve Kingdoms. Chaos ensues when beings from her world of origin make contact with her in modern Japan and transport her to their world.

Format:DVD
Language(s):English, Japanese
Subtitles:English

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Asoka

Story:

Not exactly adoption-themed but one of the main characters is an adoptee. Asoka, heir to the Maghada kingdom, goes into exile because of the jealous machinations of his mother's co-wives and his stepbrothers. He invents a new identity as a common soldier Pawan. As Pawan, he encounters Kaurwaki, a mysterious and beautiful woman who ia apparently a fugitive. Asoka courts Kaurwaki, but she rejects him, claiming that she is of a superior caste, being "of the blood of warriors." It turns out that Kaurwaki is the princess of the Kalinga kingdom who, with her younger brother, is fleeing from enemies who murdered their parents. Pawan's persistence and sincerity eventually overcome Kaurwaki's objections and win her heart.

Later, Kaurwaki discovers that she is in fact a foundling adopted by the king and queen of Kalinga. She is crushed to realize that she is probably not of the caste of kings and warriors after all. But her relationship with her younger brother, the prince of Kalinga, remains unchanged and she stays fiercely loyal to him. Asoka, who still has not revealed his real name or royal identity to Kaurwaki, assures her that her background and caste does not matter to him, but the couple is torn apart shortly after their wedding. Urgent matters call Asoka to return in haste to his kingdom. He is later led to believe that Kaurwaki and her brother have been killed. It is not until years later that King Asoka and Princess Kaurwaki meet again on the battlefield after Asoka's soldiers have mortally wounded the young king of Kalinga...

Format:DVD
Language(s):Hindi
Subtitles:English

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Babe

Story:

In this 1995 hit movie, the titular character is a piglet who is separated from his birth family when Farmer Hoggett purchases him. Fly, the Hoggetts' sheepdog, shows kindness to the lonely newcomer. The piglet Babe adopts her as his new mother in a rather understated moment when he asks, "Can I call you mom?" Fly trains Babe to be a sheepdog. Fly's mate Rex, however, does not share her love for the piglet. It is not until Babe is facing the final round of the sheep herding competition that Rex overcomes his prejudice and intervenes to help Babe at the crucial moment...

This Academy-Award nominated feature is splendid entertainment for children and adults alike. Kindness, perseverance, love and family are central themes in this modern fable.

Format:DVD
Language(s):English, French, Spanish

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Beshkempir - the Adopted Son

Story:

This film opens with a community ritual in which the women of a Kyrgyz village bless for the newborn son of one of their number. The first half of the movie unfolds rather leisurely, following the daily antics of said son in his adolescence. Beshkempir runs around with his buddies, playing childish games and exploring their burgeoning sexuality. This normalcy is shattered when Beshkempir gets into a fight with his best friend, who then reveals that Beshkempir is adopted while calling him names. Beshkempir questions his grandmother about this revelation but his grandmother initially denies it, insisting, "You are our flesh and blood." When Beshkempir's mother confronts Anipa, the mother of the boy who mocked her son, Anipa insults Beshkempir's mother for having an adopted child.

Beshkempir takes action to avenge his insult, leading to a confrontation between the two families which culminates in Beshkempir running away. Beshkempir's father eventually finds him but it is too late for Beshkempir to see his dying grandmother one last time. His beloved grandmother still manages to leave him a lasting legacy. Before her passing, she commanded Beshkempir's father to tell his son the truth about his adoptee status, and she mades Beshkempir the executor of her will. Beshkempir performs this responsibility in a public ritual - his grandmother's last wish makes it clear to the entire community that Beshkempir is without a doubt, a central part of her family and her true heir.

Format:DVD
Language(s):Kyrgyz
Subtitles:English

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Catfish in Black Bean Sauce

Story:

Many years ago, Harold Williams, a black serviceman, returned from in Vietnam with two Vietnamese children - a 10 year old girl and her much younger brother. Williams and his wife Dee adopt the children and raise them in LA. The girl Mai is strongly attached to Harold but refuses to bond with his wife Dee. Mai knows that her widowed birth mother, though lost, is still alive. Dwayne, however, forms a strong mother-son bond with Dee, despite whispers from people in the community about the inappropriateness of a transracial adoption.

The adult Mai eventually locates her birth mother Thanh, and brings her to the United States to reunite with her and Dwayne. On arrival, Thanh proceeds to 'reclaim' Dwayne, moving in with him much to the dismay of Dee. When Dwayne starts to display an interest in learning the Vietnamese language, Dee feels her displacement even more keenly, culminating in an argument between the two mothers on which name - English or Vietnamese - their son should respond to. The family tensions brought about by Thanh's arrival stresses existing relationships - Mai's relationship with her Vietnamese American husband, Dwayne's marriage plans with his Black American fiancee Nina, and not least, the relationship of Harold and Dee, for whom Mai has always been a point of contention... It is not until the stress precipitates a heart attack for Harold that the family learns to pull together and put aside old quarrels...

Format:DVD
Language(s):English

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Legend of the Condor Hero (Volume 1)

Story:

This is the first of the 6 DVD animated series based on Louis Cha's classic martial arts novel. Not exactly adoption-themed but the main character is an adoptee. The hero Yang Gor is sent at age 13 by his adoptive father Dun Jing to learn martial arts at the All Truth School. He decides to run away from the school after being bullied by the senior students. He is then rescued by Little Dragon Girl, the Gatekeeper of Ancient Tomb School. Little Dragon Girl starts to teach Yang Gor the martial arts of the Ancient Tomb School, which he picks up quickly with his extraordinary talent.

After day after day of training together, Yang Gor and Little Dragon Girl fall in love. Unfortunately for the lovers, the school has a rule against fraternizing between teachers and students, so the two have to part. Later, Yang Gor loses an arm in a misunderstanding with a junior disciple. He flees to the mountains where he is rescued by an enchanted condor. The bird reveals to him the higher secrets of the martial arts. With his new skills, Yang Gor helps his father Dun Jing repel the Mongol invaders. Overcoming a lifetime of hardship and trials, Yang Gor and the Dragon Girl are finally reunited and disappear from society to live as recluses.

Filled with creative fight sequences and imaginative visuals, this animated adaptation of Louis Cha's novel is a feast for the eyes for audiences of all ages.

Format:DVD
Language(s):English, Cantonese, Mandarin

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Dinosaur

Story:

A dinosaur egg, snatched from its nest, is passed from predator to predator only to fall into a lemur colony. Lemur mom Plio ignores her father's objections and adopts the new dinosaur hatchling. Grandpa Yar, who fears the reptile's carnivorous habits, is soon won over by the charms of Aladar, his new dinosaur grandson. Years later, Aladar is a popular member of the lemur community, raised vegeterian and surrounded by a loving family. The only thing missing from the lone dinosaur's otherwise perfect life is a mate.

When meteors hit the earth, it is Aladar's presence which saves his lemur family from destruction. Leaving a scorched island behind them, the family joins the migration of creatures in search of livable terrain...

Format:DVD
Language(s):English

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Fakin' Da Funk

Story:

Reverend and Mrs Lee apply to adopt a child and are matched with an Asian baby. The Lees, who are black, are surprised, but accept the baby Julian as their own. Julian is soon joined by a younger brother - the Lee's biological son Perry. Growing up as the rare Asian in a mostly-black Atlanta neighborhood is uneventful for Julian. The preacher's son resembles his father in miniature and is well-accepted by the community.

When Reverend Lee dies suddenly of a heart attack, the family moves to Los Angeles. There, Julian finds his 'blackness', previously taken for granted, questioned by other black youth who do not know of his adoptee status and assume he is a wannabe. Perry is embarrased by his brother's unique status and rifts appear in the relationship between the once close siblings... but love and family triumphs in the end.

Format:DVD
Language(s):English

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