TUCSON, Ariz. — From 1980 to 2015, China instituted a one-child policy that forbade families from having multiple children. Because of a culture premium placed on male students, the policy led to millions of babies — particularly girls — being abandoned shortly after birth.
"Found," released on Netflix on Oct. 20, is a documentary about three Chinese-American teen girls discarded as babies and adopted by American families. They discover they are related via DNA tests.
Along with director Amanda Lipitz ("Step"), they piece together their origins and end up traveling to China to see the places they were left and learn about their biological parents.
The documentary follows the girls through heady times as they form bonds with one another. They grew up without any connection to their heritage with little information from their pasts to work with.
Lipitz delves inside the girls' family, academic and social lives, revealing the insecurities, small joys, and passions. The key is the trust between the filmmaker and the subjects, who open up with introspective thoughts in ways parents and school counselors have trouble getting teens to do.
"Found" works because it treats the girls as people rather than case studies. The background builds up into impactful emotional payoffs as they capture fleeting pieces of the puzzles of their pasts along the march toward their destination.
The focus stays on the girls, with minimal comments from family and friends. As a result, the film feels as though the girls are telling their narrative. Lipitz directs with grace and confidence to step back and let them unfold their stories in their ways.
Family, the girls discover, is what you find along life's paths every bit as much as where you come from.
RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.