The Georgia Straight - - Movies - > BY ADRIAN MACK The Kdocs Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val runs at the Vancity Theatre from Thurs­day to Sun­day (Fe­bru­ary 15 to 18). More in­for­ma­tion is at www.viff.org/.

Be­tween 1955 and 1985, more 2

than 20,000 Indige­nous chil­dren were taken from their moth­ers and placed in­side the child-wel­fare sys­tem. The dev­as­ta­tion and trauma re­sult­ing from what came to be known as the “Six­ties Scoop” is in­cal­cu­la­ble, although the story isn’t en­tirely with­out a happy end­ing—or four. In the NFB’S Birth of a Fam­ily, we’re in­tro­duced to three sis­ters and one brother, all in their 50s, who gather to­gether for the first time dur­ing a week­long trip to Banff. Betty Ann Adam calls it “the best-ever va­ca­tion/photo al­bum any­body ever had”.

“All four of us were for­tu­nate in that we were all placed, some of us im­me­di­ately, some of us even­tu­ally, in sta­ble homes that made us part of their fam­i­lies,” she tells the Straight in a call from Saska­toon. But this wasn’t the case for many, and Betty Ann fur­ther ac­knowl­edges that her own fam­ily sum­mit piv­ots, with of­ten gut­ting ef­fect for the viewer, be­tween joy and grief. (This movie is a weeper, for sure.) “Cer­tainly, we’re all aware, as [brother] Ben ex­pressed very poignantly, that we missed a lot,” she says.

Betty Ann is a jour­nal­ist for the Saska­toon Starphoenix, and it was her tire­less and years­long ded­i­ca­tion to the en­deav­our that fi­nally got ev­ery­one into the same room to­gether, presided over by a por­trait of their mother, Mary Jane, that hangs on the ho­tel-room wall. (There have been two more re­unions since, the most re­cent in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, where Es­ther lives.) Betty Ann calls it an ef­fort “to lead my sib­lings home”, or to con­nect with a Dene her­itage that all four of them lost through as­sim­i­la­tion. A visit with an elder is par­tic­u­larly af­fect­ing, while the group’s easy hu­mour and af­fec­tion with each other sug­gest the sur­vival of an al­most preter­nat­u­ral bond. (Their joint 212th birth­day cel­e­bra­tion is es­pe­cially cute.)

Of the four, Betty Ann, the el­dest, was the only one to spend any time with their mother, who was liv­ing in Van­cou­ver’s Down­town East­side when they fi­nally met in the early ’90s, and whose defin­ing qual­ity, she says, was grace.

“It was al­most as if she didn’t want to bur­den me by telling me the things that had been dif­fi­cult in her life,” Betty Ann re­calls. “She ac­cepted the cir­cum­stances of her life and bloomed where she was planted. She pre­ferred to fo­cus on the pos­i­tive, and I see that so much, es­pe­cially in [sis­ter] Ros­alie. She’s un­stop­pable that way.”

Mean­while, the darker as­pects of the story don’t go un­ac­knowl­edged. In one key mo­ment, Es­ther con­fides to Betty Ann that she’s grap­pling with an in­abil­ity to for­give.

“I think a lot of kids who were adopted won­der, ‘Why did our par­ents let us go?’ ” she says. “And if I seem diplo­matic, what I was try­ing to ex­plain was that th­ese were uni­lat­eral gov­ern­ment poli­cies im­posed upon Indige­nous peo­ple. Th­ese are acts of op­pres­sion on our peo­ple. It just demon­strated how lit­tle in­for­ma­tion was given to Indige­nous peo­ple who were sep­a­rated from their cul­ture and fam­ily through this prac­tice.” In this mo­ment, Birth of a Fam­ily speaks for all the chil­dren of the Scoop.

Film­maker Tasha Hub­bard—who turned some 80 hours of footage into an un­hur­ried and exquisitely sen­si­tive 79 min­utes—will be at the Vancity Theatre for a panel dis­cus­sion fol­low­ing the film when Birth of a Fam­ily screens as part of Kwantlen Polytech­nic Univer­sity’s Kdocs Doc­u­men­tary Film Fes­ti­val, on Satur­day (Fe­bru­ary 17). Post­film events are planned for a num­ber of the ti­tles com­ing to the jus­tice-ori­ented fest, cov­er­ing topics that in­clude the global arms busi­ness (Shadow World), work­ers’ rights (Dolores), food ac­tivism (Mod­i­fied), hous­ing (Van­cou­ver: No Fixed Ad­dress), and the West’s covert role in ter­ror­ism (Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS), while an open­ing-night pro­gram called Sus­tain­able Fu­tures of­fers three short docs on the sub­ject of ex­treme re­source ex­trac­tion. -

Betty Ann Adam’s search for sib­lings ends with the Birth of a Fam­ily.

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