Jean Strauss: Capturing the Complexities of Adoption in Film
The adoption world is so lucky to have Jean Strauss making films about the many complexities of adoption and everyone that it involves. Jean was lovingly adopted and raised by Betty and Lou Sacconaghi in California. Although she lost her dad at the age of nine, she had a close loving relationship with her mother, whom she now calls her best friend. Jean was a tomboy, an athlete, and also the drum major in her high school band.
Married, with two sons, Jean first began to write books about adoption in 1994 withBirthright, followed by Beneath the Tall Tree in 2001. In 2004, she turned her talents from writing books to film. She took a course at the New York Film Academy and began to create short documentaries. In 2009, she became involved in trying to change the laws regarding the sealing of adoption records in her home state of California.
Her student project was The Triumvirate — an amazing 14-minute film that captures all the complexities of adoption and its many participants. It went on to win many awards and she continued to produce films. She produced other award-winning shorts like, Breathing, Holding Hands, and Vital Records.
Vital Records inspired her to become personally active in trying to change the laws that prevent adoptees from access to their original birth certificates. This film also moved me to tears, and I was very surprised at some of the behaviors of the adoptive parents.
Her first feature film: Adopted: For the Life of Me, aired on PBS in 2010 after a successful run at film festivals The last time I talked to her, she was on location in Chicago shooting yet another film, “Adopted: That Simple Piece of Paper”, about the passage of access legislation in Illinois, and the impact receiving original birth certificates has on 16 adopted citizens and their families.
What an incredible resource she is for all of us involved in adoption, no matter what part of the triad we are. Her ability to help people understand everyone’s point of view is a gift to the world, and we are very fortunate to have her perspectives.
Please go to the Collections section of the magazine to see a review of The Triumvirate and a brief peek at her Silver Shorts films.