Who Am I?

Off and Running: A New Film About Adoption and Identity

The new documentary film “Off and Running” bills itself as “An American Coming of Age Story,” which it is. It also happens to be an adoptee’s coming-of-age story, a black coming-of-age story, a Jewish coming-of-age story, an interracial family’s coming-of-age story. But for director and producer Nicole Opper, the 29-year-old filmmaker who brings the story of Brooklyn teen Avery Klein-Cloud and her family to the screen, this is most importantly Avery’s coming-of-age story. With two Jewish lesbian moms and two brothers (also transracially adopted), Avery grew up in a loving home, attended Hebrew day school where for several years she was the only Jew of color in her class, and, as the film begins, is a track star (hence the film’s title) at an all-black public high school in Brooklyn. The film — for which Opper and Klein-Cloud share writing credit — follows Avery’s decision to contact her birth mother, and her often painful, if ultimately inspiring, path of self-discovery and self-definition. (The pair won the WGA Silverdocs Documentary Screenplay Award; the film will be aired on the PBS series POV this fall.) Opper talked with editors Susan Weidman Schneider and Melanie Weiss about how “Off and Running” grew out of her interest in what constitutes family, and about what it can mean to be an activist filmmaker who provokes tough questions from the audience.

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