First Person Plural

A Korean adoptee bravely unites her biological and adoptive families.
Year Released
Film Length(s)
60 mins
Remote video URL


First Person Plural follows the story of an 8-year old girl who is adopted by an American family, only to discover years later that she has a birth family in Korea. The film explores themes of race, identity, assimilation, and birth family reunion.

Featured review

Since its debut in 2000, First Personal Plural has become a milestone in documentary film and adoption narratives...I highly recommend it for use in the classroom. It provides an effective introduction to the issues raised by adoption across borders and invariably provokes in-depth discussions around broader issues of transnational migration, gender, kinship, race, and multiculturalism.
Eleana Kim
Ph.D., Department of Anthropology, University of Rochester


In 1966, Deann Borshay Liem was adopted by an American family and sent from Korea to her new home in California. There the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated, until recurring dreams led her to investigate her own past, and she discovered that her Korean mother was very much alive. Bravely uniting her biological and adoptive families, Borshay Liem embarks on a heartfelt journey in this acclaimed film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Nominated for an Emmy for Best Director, First Person Plural is a poignant essay on family, loss and the reconciling of two identities.


For the past five years, I have shown Deann Borshay Liem's FIRST PERSON PLURAL in all my undergraduate classes...The film stimulates students' thinking and very lively discussion about a broad range of issues - not only the perennial 'identity' issues that college students often grapple with, but also questions about how global power relations help shape individual lives.
Elaine Kim
Professor, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Berkeley
The film is a must for all of the parents, professionals and teens and young adults we work with, not just for those with international adoptions, but also for anyone who has adopted or is adopted or has a child by birth who ended up raised by others.
Joyce Maguire Pavao
Ed.D., LCSW, LMFT, Founder and CEO of Center for Family Connections, Inc., Adoption Resource Center, Pre/Post Adoption Consulting Team, and Family Connections Training Institute
First Person Plural is not just a film about international adoption; it is a film about the ways in which individuals, families, and nations negotiate notions of identity and belonging.
Richard Lee
Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota
With her unique ability to mix her personal perspective with the larger institutional issues, Deann Borshay Liem has created two films that are important contributions to the exploration of the complexity of transnational and transracial adoption.
Beth Hall
Executive Director, PACT, An Adoption Alliance
Everything about this documentary feels breathtakingly real.
The New York Times
The New York Times
In FIRST PERSON PLURAL, we see Liem untangling her roots with a combination of zeal and anguish that dramatizes how desperately we all need to connect with our past to make sense of our lives and ourselves.
Boston Globe
Boston Globe

Awards and Screenings

Emmy Award Nomination, Outstanding Achievement in the Craft of Directing, 2000
Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary, San Francisco International Film Festival, 2000
Best Documentary, DocAviv, 2000
Sundance Film Festival, Official Selection, 2000
PBS National Broadcast, Point of View (POV), 2000
Hot Docs, 2000
INPUT, 2000
Hawaii International Film Festival, 2000
Cinemasia Film Festival Amsterdam
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival
Boston International Festival of Women's Cinema
DocFest New York
Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival
Walker Art Center
Asian American Psychological Association
North American Council on Adoptable Children
Korean Adoptee Adoptive Family Network
International Gathering of Korean Adoptees

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