That's a Family!
Robin Williams, actor
American Library Association
Dr. Shanna L. Graves, Ass't Professor of Early Childhood Education, University of Houston-Clear Lake
The Education Digest
MC Journal: the Journal of Academic Media Librarianship
It doesn't matter who's in the family, but it matters that you love each other and take care of each other. That's a family! A very simple and truthful definition for having a family was well expressed by a boy, Fernando, in this remarkable film about the diversity of families. When kids are brought up in a non-traditional family, they usually have to deal with pressure and teasing from their peers in school, and may even be treated differently by adults. This film celebrates the family, in all its forms. It allows kids to express the pride they feel about their families, and gives them a chance to share their feelings with others. THAT'S A FAMILY!, the first film that attempts to teach young audiences about family diversity, is narrated by children raised in nontraditional family structures, including divorced, adoptive, guardian, parents with drugs, multi-racial or -religious, disabled, and gay and lesbian-headed households. This brief film is well organized. Debra Chasnoff, the film director and also an Academy Award winner for her documentary DEADLY DECEPTION-General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment (1991), naturally blends in her theme throughout the whole film by using kids' own words: "There are a lot of kids like me in the world who have mixed families and they don't all have to be the same. There are a lot of different ones!" as Emily talks about her Chinese-American Dad and German-American Mom. A statistics sheet accompanying this film states that in the United States "...only 28 percent of American households consist of married parents with their own biological children; In 1997, 32% of all births were to unmarried women; Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce; More than 100,000 children are adopted each year; The 1990 Census showed that 2.3 million interracial and intergroup couples compared with 1.6 million in 1980; Approximately 6 to 10 million children have lesbian, gay, and bisexual parents." All these stunning facts reveal that it is time to teach kids about the existence of diverse family groups. Josh, a young boy in this film with two mothers, illustrates that one of his schoolmates "...uses mean words for gays and lesbians and that hurt my feelings. I wish he knew it was OK to be different." Kids should not carry a burden for things that they do not have a choice over: they cannot choose their parents. It is not just important for kids from diverse families to learn that it is ok to be different, but it is also essential for those who live in a traditional so-call "normal" families to accept and co-exist peacefully with those who are different from them. The film is very simple, but also extremely moving and powerful. The fact that it is told strictly from the point of view of the children gives the film a sincerity that comes through very strongly. There are scenes of the daily life of the families, with voice over narration by one of the children in the family group. There are some tragic family situations, such as children being raised by the grandmother because the mother is on drugs. These issues are dealt with in a straightforward manner, emphasizing the fact that the children are now safe and loved. The film has very high production values, and clear sound. It is colorful and has eye-catching visual effects, but in no way do they detract from the focus on the children and their stories. This film has been highly rated in numerous reviews, including an extensive one in the San Francisco Examiner, Sunday June 4, 2000. I would highly recommend this film not only for schools and public libraries, but for adults as well.
Senator Barbara Boxer
* * * 1/2
"You don't have to be a rat to marry a rat. You can be a rat and marry a mouse," says 9-year-old Emily, and while the anaolgy may be neither quite scientifically accurate nor particularly flattering, Emily's point that interracial relationships are a-ok, comes across loud and clear. Emily, whose mother is German-American and father is Chinese-American, hails from one of 50 families seen here in Oscar-winning director Debra Chasnoff's (Deadly Deception, It's Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues In School [VL-11/97]) wonderfully inclusive overview of the multiplicity of family structures: single-parent, original parents, blended families, adoptive families, straight parents, gay parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, and more. Combining nicely animated bridging sections with mini-profiles of various families in which the children explain concepts such as "divorce," "birth mom," "gay and lesbian," and "guardian," this top notch production aimed at elementary and middle school aged kids may go a long way toward assuaging children's fears of being "different," while also hopefully enouraging tolerance in general. Given the fact that we are long out of The Donna Reed Show/Leave It to Beaver/Father Knows Best era...a program like this is more than just long overdue. It's vital. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, executive director Interfaith Alliance
Don-David Lusterman, PhD, fellow Academy of Family Psychology
California State Senator Dede Alpert Senate Education Committee
Alvin F. Poussaint, Professor of Psychiatry Harvard Medical School
Jill Moss Greenberg, Executive Director National Association for Multicultural Education
Michele Harway, PhD. President of the American Psychological Association Division of Family Psychology
Matt, age 8
Gabriel, age 9
Kyle, age 11