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In The Matter Of Cha Jung Hee - Movie Review - 2010

A Search For Identity

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In The Matter Of Cha Jung Hee - Movie Review - 2010

The two photos of Cha Jung Hee

Mu Films
In In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee, filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem clearly states her personal involvement in the film and her reason for making it. In voice over, she says, "In the 1960s just before being adopted from a Korean orphanage by an American family, my identity was switched with another girl named Cha Jung Hee. I was told to keep the switch a secret."

The film chronicles Liem's efforts to uncover the secret and find out what happened to the little girl whose name -- and shoes -- she was given.

Who Is The Girl in the Picture?

Deann Borshay Liem found two photos with the name Cha Jung Hee penciled on the back. Both were taken shortly before the Borshay family adopted Cha Jung Hee from a South Korean orphanage, and brought her to America. Cha Jung Hee then become Deann Borshay, who grew up to be the film directory who made this very personal documentary.

Cha Jung Hee aka Deann quickly became assimilated, and loved her adoptive parents dearly. But questions about her origins and adoption were heightened by the two photos of Cha Jung Hee -- herself -- that were with her adoption papers. The problem was that the photos were of two different, albeit somewhat similar, little girls.

Eventually, Deann was able to find out that her birth name was really Ok Chin, and that she had been sent off to join the the Borshays in America in lieu of -- and wearing the shoes of -- Cha Jung Hee, who had been reclaimed by her natural father just before the adoption was to be finalized. Deann was able to find and meet her birth mother and felt that she'd reconnected to her Korean roots, but she felt strongly that she needed to find the real Cha Jung Hee, to see what her life had become and whether she'd been sadly deprived because she hadn't been sent to America for 'a better life.' Deann was curious, too, to find out exactly why she had been sent to America in Cha Jung Hee's stead. Was her life the product of a corrupt adoption system? What would have happened to her had she been kept at the orphanage in South Korea? And. well, she had lots of questions that needed answering.

Filmmaker as Detective

Documenting her search, Deann proves to be an adept detective, following dozens of leads, making phone calls to strangers, asking current adoption agencies for help. She's thoughtful. We see a real need for resolution. We see that she's seeking an understanding that goes beyond the immediate circumstances of her adoption. She's contemplating her own notions of personal and cultural identity. She's questioning the relationship between personal identity and interracial adoption. She's studying the effects that accidents and unpredictable circumstances have in determining the direction of one's life.

Deann is the film's central character -- she, and the two photos of the little girl called Cha Jung Hee. The faces depicted in the photographs are cut in horizontal strips showing forehead, eyes, nose, mouth and chin, and the strips are intermingled time and again during the film. It's a good visual effect to illustrate Deann's concerns about identity confusion.

In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee gives you a lot to think about, and Deann's story certainly elicits strong sympathies about what she and other children who are adopted from other countries, other cultures go through. And it raises many questions about what 'a better life' actually means.

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Film Details:

  • Title: In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee
  • Director: Deann Borshay Liem
  • Release Date: US Television Premiere: September 14, 2010
  • Running Time: 64 mins.
  • Parents Advisory: Advisory for content
  • Location: USA South Korea
  • Language: English, Korean with translation and/or subtitles
  • Production Company: Mu Films
  • Trailer

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