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Twilight star's new movie criticised over adoptee representation

·2-min read
Photo credit: Focus Features
Photo credit: Focus Features

Twilight star Justin Chon's new movie Blue Bayou has been criticised for its "exploitative" depiction of adoptees facing deportation from the US.

The drama, which was written and directed by Chon, sees him play Antonio, a Korean-American adopted immigrant who's made a name for himself as a Louisiana-based tattoo artist and is trying to do right by his pregnant partner Kathy (Tomb Raider's Alicia Vikander) and her young daughter Jessie.

With a new baby on the way, he sets it upon himself to find more work. But his plans come to an abrupt halt when he agrees to help some local deadbeats steal a bunch of high-end motorbikes, and winds up getting nicked by Kathy's surly, police officer ex Ace (Ready or Not's Mark O'Brien).

Photo credit: Focus Features
Photo credit: Focus Features

Shortly after his arrest, Antonio is told that the government plans to deport him – a decision he and Kathy take it upon themselves to fight.

Since its nationwide release on Friday (September 17), members of the adoptee community took to social media to urge cinemagoers to boycott the film and slam it for not "[educating] the community about issues in transracial adoption, or [sharing] messages from actual adoptee activists."

Korean-American adoptee Stephanie Drenka, who acts as Communications Director for Dallas Truth, Racial Healing, & Transformation, continued : "Chon could have de-centered himself and cast an adoptee in the leading role. The Blue Bayou marketing and public relations team should have used their resources and platform to amplify a call-to-action about supporting the Adoptee Citizenship Act."

Photo credit: Focus Features
Photo credit: Focus Features

Related: Twilight creator confirms two more books after Midnight Sun's success

Elsewhere, Korean-American adoptee and abuse survivor Adam Crapser has called out Chon for allegedly ignoring his wishes, after the filmmaker reached out to him and asked whether he'd be interested in adapting his story for the big screen – an idea Crapser wasn't keen on.

"I'm a real person. I'm not a Hollywood character made for profit, award-seeking, or tear-jerking movies," Crapser – who was deported in 2016 – wrote on Facebook.

"The film Blue Bayou is clearly based on the life of Korean-American adoptee Adam Crapser, who did not give the filmmakers his consent or the rights to his story," said Adoptees for Justice in a public statement.

Photo credit: Focus Features
Photo credit: Focus Features

"Adoptees for Justice cannot tolerate the appropriation of our community members' stories and lived experiences. Given all that we lose as intercountry adoptees, we should not also lose the right to and control of our own stories."

"Adoptee voices are often silenced in our own personal lives as well as at a systemic level," added Drenka. "Our stories are exploited by adoptive families, the adoption industry, people on both sides of the abortion debate, and others. Reclaiming our stories – and choosing when, how, and if to tell them – is one of the very few ways in which we have some agency as adoptees."

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