Netflix documentary film “Found”, which was released on Netflix on last Wednesday after having a limited theatrical released in US, presents a heartfelt story of three different Chinese American adoptees who came to search for their biological mothers. As observing the daily life of each of them and the development of their accidental friendship, the documentary gives us a series of warm and intimate moments among them and their respective foster families, and there are also some poignant moments when these three young ladies later become a bit more active about finding themselves in the country they do not remember much.
At the beginning, we are introduced to Chloe Lipitz, Lily Boka, and Sadie Mangelsdorf, and the documentary shows us how different their respective family backgrounds are. While Chloe has grown up under her Jewish parents in Arizona, Lily has been living with her foster mother and her extensive Catholic family in Oklahoma, and Sadie Mangelsdorf has resided with her divorced mother and two step siblings in Tennessee. We see Chloe going through a religious ritual for her adulthood in Israel, and then we watch Lily preparing for her upcoming college enrollment, and then we observe Sadie cheerfully working along with other employees at a local fast-food restaurant.
As Chinese American adoptees, these three young ladies all have the experience of being more aware of being and looking different from many others around them. When they were just adopted from China, they simply adapted themselves to their respective new and alien environments under the loving care of their foster parents. As they grew up older, they became more conscious of being abandoned shortly after their birth, and Chloe bitterly reminisces at one point about how the casual remark from one of her schoolmates, who was incidentally her best friend at that time, hurt her a lot.
They all know well why they were abandoned shortly after being born in China. As told to us in the beginning of the documentary, the Chinese government ruthlessly forced the one-child policy upon its citizens during around 40 years for suppressing its serious population increase, and around 150,000 babies were abandoned during that period as a consequence. Many of these abandoned babies were girls because many of Chinese people preferred to have a son instead of a girl, and, once they were found abandoned, they were usually sent to local orphanages, where many of them were later adopted by foreign foster parents just like Chole, Lily, and Sadie.
Although there was not much chance from the beginning, Chloe, Lily, and Sadie submitted their samples for DNA tests to an online service company which has helped many adoptees like them, and that was how they came to befriend each other. Their test results still did not lead them to anything substantial enough to locate their respective biological parents, but the test results indicated that they were actually distant cousins, and they were all thrilled and delighted to contact with each other.
While they continue to communicate with each other, they become all the more curious about finding their roots, but not all of them are eager to do more for that. Sadie and Lily are willing to go to China for knowing a bit more about their birthplaces, Chloe is rather reluctant for understandable reasons, but she still goes along with her two friends when they put some efforts together on their journey of finding themselves and their roots.
Their cases are handled by Liu Hao, a local research officer living in Beijing, China. Liu has been quite passionate about her work because she still remembers well how unwanted she was as a daughter during her childhood years, and it is touching to see how she deftly and sensitively handles her latest cases. She approaches to those potential biological parents with caution and respect, and she listens to these people with care and empathy while also mentioning that there is not much possibility of positive result in their DNA tests. Regardless of whether any of them is actually the biological parent of Chloe or Lilly or Sadie, these people all have their own sad story to share with, and we are reminded again of how heartless the one-child policy really was.
In the end, Chloe, Lilly, and Sadie eventually take a trip to China for getting to know more of their respective birthplaces, and the most poignant moments in the documentary come from when they reunite with several orphanage nannies who took care of them and many other little orphans during that time. These remarkable women did their best despite little support and resource available to them, and they are all certainly proud and happy to see Chloe, Lilly, and Sadie returning to them for showing some gratitude.
Overall. “Found”, which is incidentally the first feature documentary film by director/co-producer Amanda Lipitz, will touch you with its numerous intimate moments, and it will bring you some smile via a series of sweet photographs shown during its end credits. Although it does not give us a wider perspective on the one-child policy like Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang’s harrowing documentary “One Child Nation” (2019), the documentary still works as an engaging documentary nonetheless, and it will surely make a nice double feature show along with “One Child Nation”.