Adoption is always an emotional matter for everyone involved, and even more so when a family is trying to adopt a child from another country. The already complex situation immediately becomes more difficult, and can even be affected by global political changes
Following the Diaz family as they adopt three children from Russia, The Dark Matter of Love looks at how these new additions to the family, who have lived in institutions their whole lives, can settle into an ordinary American family life with parents and siblings. There are some interesting aspects of the filming that were actually left out of the documentary though, the film even became an unintentional part of a national campaign when the Kremlin introduced a law banning US families from adopting Russian children.
10 The Diaz Family Were One Of The Last To Adopt From Russia
Claudio and Cheryl Diaz, the stars of The Dark Matter of Love, are living happily in Wisconsin when they decide to go down the difficult route of adopting from abroad.
While the actual adoption process went relatively smoothly for the Diaz family, the situation changed dramatically not long after the documentary was first screened with the change in Russian law. In fact, they were one of the last families to successfully adopt from Russia, although they didn’t realize it at the time of filming.
9 Dark Matter Of Love Has Even Been Screened On Capitol Hill
The decision by Russia to ban adoptions to the US left families who had already started the adoption process in limbo. Many of the children they were trying to adopt were living in poverty in orphanages, and some were even in need of medical treatment.
The documentary and the Diaz family became part of the campaign to overturn the ban, and The Dark Matter of Love was even screened on Capitol Hill in a bid to persuade US politicians of the importance of the issue.
8 The Documentary Was Inspired By A Museum Exhibition About Chimps
The Dark Matter of Love was the brainchild of respected Australian documentary maker Sarah McCarthy, who has filmed human stories around the world and had her films screened on the BBC, HBO, and Netflix.
She first had the idea to make a film about adoption and how children from a completely different culture might settle into an America when she visited a museum exhibit which encouraged visitors to mimic the faces of chimps expressing emotions, which sparked an interest in evolution and emotions more generally and parent-child relationships in particular.
7 Sarah McCarthy Did Six Months Of Research Before Starting The Film
Making a documentary is quite an intrusive process, especially so when the subject is a family which is going through such a significant upheaval as the introduction of three young people who don’t even speak the same language as their new parents and siblings.
McCarthy did months of research into the subject of parent-child relationships, and the different scientific theories behind how these relationships develop and can be improved before she even approached the Diaz family to ask them about filming their adoption journey.
6 McCarthy Ended Up Becoming Close Friends With The Diaz Family
Inevitably, when a documentary maker is working in such close proximity with other people, their relationship with their subject is going to change over time.
Sarah McCarthy has admitted that she became friends with the Diaz family while making The Dark Matter of Love, and they have even stayed in touch after the film was finished to work together on the campaign to overturn the ban on US adoptions of Russian children. McCarthy has said that it was difficult not to become emotionally involved in some of the documentary’s more poignant moments.
5 The Documentary Team Lived Near Them For Weeks On End
It wasn’t just Sarah McCarthy herself who became close to the Diaz family as a result of making The Dark Matter of Love; her documentary crew also lived and worked near the couple and their children while filming was taking place.
In fact, to make it easier to capture candid footage, the whole crew lived in a rented house near where the Diaz family lived so that they could easily travel to and from work and be on set quickly if there was something of interest to record for the film.
4 It Took Over 18 Months To Get All The Footage
Although the film itself is only 90 minutes long, it tells a story that took place over many months, following Claudio and Cheryl and the three Russian children they decide to adopt from that first difficult meeting to a time when they have become something like a normal family.
McCarthy and her crew filmed the Diaz family in five main blocks, varying in length from two weeks to six weeks, for 18 months, as well as returning for key moments in the story which happened outside these shoots.
3 There Were Difficulties Filming In Russia
Russian is not the easiest country to work in at the best of times, but in 2012, when The Dark Matter of Love was being made, the relationship between the US and the Kremlin was at a low point.
This made it difficult for McCarthy to film inside Russia, but she knew that she needed to show the background that Masha, Marcel, and Vadim had grown up in before their move to the States. Luckily, she had an excellent “fixer” in Russia who set up the permissions she needed to film at the state orphanage in Arkhangelsk.
2 And Difficulties Screening The Finished Film Afterwards
There were also some initial problems screening the finished film, especially when Moscow introduced the ban on US adoptions and The Dark Matter of Love began to be used as part of the political campaign against the law change.
The Russian delegation at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe tried to have a planned screening of the documentary canceled at a meeting in Istanbul, though the film has since been shown several times in Russia as the campaign against the adoption ban continues.
1 The Russian Government Tried To Interfere With The Film In Other Ways
A high proportion of the American adoptions of Russian children in the past have involved young people with medical problems or disabilities, some of whom have since gone on to become Team USA Paralympians.
The Diaz family and Sarah McCarthy both thought it would be great to get their point of view on the success of foreign adoptions, especially in light of the Russian ban. However, the Kremlin threatened to withdraw their visas for the Winter Paralympics in Sochi in 2018 if they contributed to the documentary.
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