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Originally published Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 3:01 PM

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'Somewhere Between': Engaging teens revisit adoptions in China

"Somewhere Between," a documentary directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, traces the stories of four high-school-age girls adopted from China by Americans. It feels deeply personal, as the director and her husband also have a daughter who will one day ask the kinds of questions this film answers in detail, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald in this review.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 3 stars

'Somewhere Between,' a documentary by Linda Goldstein Knowlton. 88 minutes. Not rated; suitable for general audiences. Varsity.

Producer Pat Verducci will attend the

5 p.m. and 7:15 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, and will host Q&As after each.

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Linda Goldstein Knowlton's documentary "Somewhere Between" feels deeply personal: It's book-ended by footage of the director and her husband with their daughter Ruby, adopted from China, and it's dedicated to that smiling little girl, who will surely one day have questions about where she came from.

Wondering how to answer them, when the day comes, Knowlton made a movie for Ruby — and for anyone interested in the challenges of being one of the nearly 80,000 girls adopted in the U.S. from China since 1989.

"I'm a banana," says a matter-of-fact teen in the movie. "Yellow outside, white inside."

Knowlton focuses her film on four high-school-age girls, scattered around the country: Fang (called Jenni at school), who lives in Berkeley, Calif.; Jenna, from New Hampshire; Haley, a Nashville-ite who wants to be "the first Chinese person to play the Grand Ole Opry"; and Ann, who lives in a Philadelphia suburb. All of the girls are bright and engaging; all have wondered, to varying degrees, about their pasts.

Fang, adopted at age 5, has vivid memories of being abandoned on a sidewalk by her brother. "I was a mistake to them," she says of her birth family, though she doesn't seem bitter.

We follow several of the girls as they travel to China, revisiting the villages and orphanages they came from, and watch as they cope with unexpected developments: Fang with her attachment to a tiny girl with cerebral palsy (to whom she becomes an unofficial "big sister"); Haley with the sudden appearance of what may be her birth family.

Jenna speaks emotionally, at a forum about Chinese adoption, about her feelings around the word "abandonment," but you sense her determination to help others by telling her story. "I carry my experiences to share, like origami in my pocket," she reads quietly from a poem.

These girls — and Ruby — have traveled far, on a journey not yet finished; you sense, though, that they know their way home.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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