Monday, June 27, 2011

Silverdocs - Donor Unknown

My favorite film from Silverdocs this year was definitely Donor Unknown. It's a heartwarming, funny documentary that challenges common perceptions of what family means as it follows 22-year old JoEllen on a journey to find her sperm donor family. She registers on the Donor Sibling Registry and slowly but surely she finds one sibling, then another, then another, until she has at least 14 half-siblings that she knows of. Then of course the film spends time following the sperm donor himself, Jeffrey, a hippie beach bum living in a trailer on Venice Beach in California. As crazy as he seems sometimes, he's a really loveable character.

The story travels with JoEllen as she meets some of her siblings in person, bonds with them, discovers all the similarities between them and then travels to California with a few of her donor-siblings to meet Jeffrey. The film is very entertaining in its portrayal of this unorthodox, large and seemingly-ever-growing family. I also learned a lot about the sperm donor industry/process and got a feel of what the kids of donors go through. For example, one of the siblings talks about her fear that whenever she meets a guy, he could (unknowingly) be her half brother. And with 14 siblings coming out of the woodwork all over the country, I can understand why. It also does a good job of giving the parents' perspective: how some parents struggle with the idea of their child meeting their donor father and donor siblings and how it ends up changing (or not) their family dynamic.

I really enjoyed this film. I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of my favorite docs period. To be honest, it was really nice to see a documentary that wasn't depressing and heavy. It deals with real issues and great characters while keeping the tone fun. You'll laugh, you'll cry (heartwarming tears, not sad tears) and you'll leave wishing you had 14 secret siblings you could discover, particularly if you're an only child like me.

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