Sunshine offers a refreshingly rare glimpse on the current day transformations taking place within the American family. Filmmaker Karen Skloss explores her own unplanned pregnancy and decision to keep the child as a single mother. Twenty-three years prior, Skloss’ biological mother faces a similar dilemma, choosing to give birth secretly in a Catholic home for unwed mothers through a closed adoption.
Woven together from more than 10 years’ worth of intimate family interviews and stylized essay-like moments, Sunshine is a compelling and uniquely crafted portrait of an adopted woman driven to search for her pride and identity while connecting with her biological mother.
“Sunshine” insightfully explores unwritten chapters in women’s history. A must see contribution to the conversation on women and family.”
When filmmaker Karen Skloss got pregnant at the age of 23, she decided to have and keep the baby — even when it became clear that her relationship with the baby’s father wouldn’t work out. She had no idea that it would be so easy to alter her life in one stroke.
In SUNSHINE, Skloss explores the meaning of family through a personal journey to understand both the legacy of her own birth and the non-traditional family she created by co-parenting with her ex-boyfriend. Young, pregnant, single, and unprepared, Skloss struggles with the fact that sometimes, the most strenuous efforts to protect the idea of family can actually do the most to pull families apart.
Skloss’s pregnancy was, in a way, a case of history repeating itself. As a pregnant teenager, Skloss’s biological mother, the mayor’s daughter in a small Texas town, hushed herself away in a Catholic home for unwed mothers before giving Skloss up for adoption in 1975. She went on to lead a relatively normal life — finishing college, getting married, and having several other children. Few people, other than her new husband, had any idea what had happened. But that was more than Skloss knew for many, many years.
As she reconnects with her biological mother in SUNSHINE, Skloss also contemplates her relationship with her own daughter, Jasmine. “Though the meaning of family today is stretched ever farther, there is still plenty of struggle and at times, a nagging shame in being a single parent,” Skloss says. “A large part of my difficulty lay in the realization that I’d become one of ‘those’ people, who will never have a ‘normal’ family. My birthmother says she feared the shame that situation would have created for me.”
Woven together from more than 10 years’ worth of home movies, intimate family interviews, shimmering dance sequences, and stylized reenactments, SUNSHINE is a refreshing and compelling self-portrait of an adopted woman driven to search for her pride and identity while reconnecting with her biological mother.
“Sunshine” eloquently portrays just how much our attitudes toward motherhood and family dynamics have changed over the past several decades.”
“I was fascinated in a way I have not been before by the use of film to tell a personal, human-sized story. I was moved to tears.”
"Sunshine" provides an important revelation of the histories, reticences, and worries, as well as glories and triumphs, of changing perspectives on single-parenting."
“I love the discussion Sunshine brings to the table.”
"An Expanded definition of family."
The Changing Face of Families: from "Unwed Mother" to "Single Mom"
Karen Skloss' beautifully quirky new documentary, Sunshine, (shows that)...despite social changes, there's still a stigma; even Karen, whose biological mom and adoptive sister both became pregnant outside of marriage, admits "until it happened to me, I'd always looked down on women in my position." In a home movie of Karen's daughter's birth, Karen's dad jokes lightly about holding "grandchild number two from our two restless..." he pauses, searching for the right word and Karen (off camera) offers, "Wayward daughters?" "Two wayward daughters, yeah" he agrees. The tone is light, but there's an edge to it, an awareness of the heavier history behind them.
The contrast between the mothers' choices and experiences is engaging, but (for me) the incredible social change regarding unwed/single motherhood in just one generation is astounding.