In the new Netflix documentary Found, director Amanda Lipitz presents audiences with the wholehearted story of three adopted teen girls who—after DNA tests reveal them to be cousins—travel to China to find their birth parents. Interweaving the stories of Lily, Chloe, and Sadie, the film artfully cracks open themes of self-discovery and the power behind cultural roots.
The film opens showing each of the three teenagers living normal lives in the United States. Lily is moving into college, Chloe goes to the synagogue with her family, and Sadie works at a Sonic Drive-In after school. After the three connect digitally, they are given the opportunity to travel to China through a program looking to reunite Chinese children abroad with their biological parents. With the strict enforcement of the one-child policy between 1980 and 2015, over a hundred thousand of Chinese children were put in orphanages and adoption centers, most of the time with connection to their birth parents.
The film follows the internal debates each of the girls have and their desires to meet their biological parents. While seeming to be an obvious desire, many children put up for adoption are reluctant about the complexity of meeting their parents who exist in a completely different culture and setting from the one the kids have grown up in. It is essentially a world-shattering possibility for each of the film’s subjects, and Found does an excellent job presenting how adoption weighs on each of the girls, while simultaneously explaining how adoption also does not define each of them.
Chloe describes early on after meeting her biological parents that the encounter felt strange—as if it’s “not meant to be.” The most earnest moments of the film are watching Lily, Chloe, and Sadie all struggle with questions regarding whether their birth parents loved them, wanted them, or still think about them. The heaviness behind these questions supercharge the documentary with so much raw and tangled emotions from the three central storylines, it is difficult to not care about each of the teens as they try to find out as much as they can about their lives in China.
Lipitz presents audiences with a touching true story about three young people trying to figure out their place in the world. With each of them relying on each other with their shared experience, viewers will be stirred by watching their individual journeys come together. After these parents and their children were separated for so many years, the journey back to China depicted in Found creates an emotional portrait of what it means to come face-to-face with a place and parents that could have been considered home.
Photo Courtesy of Netflix