Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"The Dark Matter of Love" shows an American family adopting children from Arctic Russia


The Dark Matter of Love” (2012), by Sarah McCarthy, examines the process of interpersonal bonding within a Wisconsin family (Diaz) with one teenage girl and only child, Cami Diaz, when her parents adopt eleven year old Masha Kulabokhova, along with two five-year-old twin boys (Marcel and Vadim), from an orphanage in Russia. It's interesting to see a documentary about family values use a term from cosmology and physics.  
    
In fact, there are extensive scenes showing the Russian city, Arkhangelsk, on the Arctic Ocean, with its grimy factories, warehouses, and Soviet-looking apartment buildings, before the family meets the kids in the orphanage.
  
Arkhangelsk is interesting to me because the city provides the name of a controversial chess opening, an enterprising Black defense to the Ruy Lopez, although the name of this sharp opening has been Anglicized to be spelled as “Archangel”, which seems suitable.  Maybe members of this family play chess.  In my novel manuscript, “Angel’s Brother”, a critical chapter (16) occurs in Arkhangelsk just as winter is closing in.
  
Much of the film concerns the bonding and “contact comfort” within the family, since children in orphanages in Russia or former satellite countries often have received little attention and are developmentally behind.  The family has the services of Dr. Robert Marvin from the University of Virginia School of Medicine.
  
Cami seems to look forward to having siblings, before learning what a challenge special needs adoptees will be. 
  
The film makes a real show of the social bearing of the parents, very much into nurturing a family, including the father, rather than pursuing personal goals common in individualistic society.  Like it or not, this sounds like the philosophy of Rick Santorum and “It Takes a Family” (Book reviews, March 5, 2012).   I am not socialized this way, to dedicate my entire energy (starting with marital sexuality) to something like this, and seem to owe karma to those who do.
  
I am an only child (at 71).  I remember that at around age nine, hearing my parents discuss the idea of adopting a sister, around age six, but it was not pursued.  I might have viewed a sibling as “competition”.
  
The film seems timely now, since the geopolitics of Vladimir Putin have entered the picture.  At the end of 2012, Russia passed a law banning adoption of Russian children by US citizens, apparently in retaliation for a US law banning Russians convicted of human rights violations from entering the US or owning assets here (NBC News story in early 2013, here). Furthermore, Russia seems to be banning adoption from countries allowing gay marriage.  Some of this seems to be related to Russia's low birth rate, and Putin's demand for bigger families,  So can Russian parents step forward and adopt these kids?  

  
The official site is here  (Balcony Releasing, Roco Films, and Double Bounce Films).  The tagline is “Science can change the way you love.”  I watched the film on Netflix instant play. The film played at TIFF (Toronto). 
     
Wikipedia attribution link for Arkhangelsk picture. Third picture:  Arlington VA in winter; fourth: Wisconsin in summer (mine, 2011).  

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