With the Oscars approaching, we’ve taken a look at the themes of some of the movies nominated for awards (and a few we wish were nominated) and how they’re relevant to the work we do at CASA. The films released over the past year cover topics including trauma, foster care, adoption, placements with relatives, diversity, confronting our own biases and more. Here are some of our staff-recommended films of the year (and each of these can count as Continuing Education hours for our volunteer advocates!):
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
A national manhunt is ordered for a rebellious kid and his foster uncle who go missing in the wild New Zealand bush.
“The best thing about this movie is how it shows people who seemingly have nothing in common with the children they have been asked to care for. The foster “aunt” takes this boy into her life and loves him unconditionally, despite massive cultural differences, which is exactly what we need from foster parents and CASA volunteers. Despite this boy doing everything he possibly could to escape the situation and cause problems, she consistently cared for him and didn’t ask for anything back. While the foster “uncle” takes more time to accept this new person in his life, his growth as a person is remarkable and, in the end, he ends up benefitting the most from the relationship.” - AJ Renold, Director of Family Engagement
Manchester by the Sea
An uncle is asked to take care of his teenage nephew after the boy's father dies.
“This movie is incredibly tragic and very real. It reminds me that agreeing to care for a child who is not your own is an incredibly complex decision, and helps me better understand those situations where relatives say they are unable to care for a child we are working with. I feel like sometimes we go into a situation with relatives, asking them to care for a child from their family, and if they say no I personally may be judging them internally. But this is a really really big ask. I really can’t judge without knowing their whole story in life. Perhaps for this child, going into foster care may be the best option for them.“ - Alex Mirande, Child Advocacy Specialist
In Ancient Polynesia, when a terrible curse incurred by the Demigod Maui reaches an impetuous Chieftain's daughter's island, she answers the Ocean's call to seek out the Demigod to set things right.
“One big plot twist in Moana is when we learn Maui was not made by the Demigods, but was rescued by them when his mother abandoned him. One of his demigod characteristics is that he has tattoos which narrate his story. One of these tattoos is a woman throwing a baby into the ocean. When questioned, Maui lies about his past. Kids from hard places tend to invent stories or "lie" about their past. A youth might talk about how great his father is, when in fact, he has never met his father. Some people view these "lies" as pathological when in reality they are a coping skill and a protective factor of one's brain. When faced with great loss, burdens, and trauma, individuals might lie to make sense of their past, rather than disassociate from the pain of reality. Maui initially lied about his painful past, but with healthy relationships and Moana empowering him to live as a survivor, not a victim, he grows to learn his identity is more than just his past, and thrive. Don't our youth and families deserve the same message and opportunity to heal?” - Karen Goldapp, Child Advocacy Specialist
A timeless story of human self-discovery and connection, Moonlight chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
“I like that this film isn’t saccharine… it’s direct and unapologetic in its telling of this child’s reality. It also challenges your expectations about what a family or a community can be. This child finds an important attachment and relationship with a person who most people would say is not a good person to be around a kid, but in many says this person saves him. In our work with CASA, it’s easy to judge someone based on their past or something in a criminal record, but we have to recognize that’s not all there is within a relationship between an adult and a child.” - Catherine Jones, Volunteer Management & Retention Specialist
A five-year-old Indian boy gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home. He survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia; 25 years later, he sets out to find his lost family.
“In this story there was no abandonment, abuse or neglect on the part of his biological family, it’s just an awful set of circumstances that left him by himself. He was looking for his family and they were looking for him, but abject poverty in the country left them with no way to find him. They couldn’t even have read a newspaper if there was a notice about him. Many of our families aren’t able to access resources or find the supports they need to help their kids because of a variety of limitations – poverty, lack of knowledge, immigration status, etc.
Also in this film we see a child who’s been adopted that suffers from severe trauma. We often don’t witness the effects of trauma in movies about adoption, and many adoptive families have unrealistic expectations about being able to swoop in and save a child with love. You can’t love a child into being healthy. It takes real work, consistent modeling of positive behaviors and an understanding of the severe trauma children have been through to help them heal. People have to be prepared for the fact that children, whether adopting internationally or from the foster care system, may be coming from incredibly hard places.” - Janet Rodriguez, Director of Admissions
CASA Recommends February 2017