Austinite Karen Skloss, who was featured on the cover of last week's Austin Chronicle, premiered her documentary "Sunshine" before a huge audience at the Convention Center. Born out of wedlock and given up for adoption when she was a newborn, Karen seeks to understand her birth and the birth of her own daughter, who also was born out of wedlock. As the main character of the film, Karen talks with those close to her like her adopted parents, biological mother and grandfather and the biological father of her daughter. This personal story highlights the issue of unwed mothers. Decades ago, it was unacceptable and frowned upon, but today, it is more common and acceptable among people.
This documentary was visually stimulating with mixed media and re-enacted scenes to depict Karen's mom's experience years ago. The film starts off at The Parish during a play rehearsal with mom's dressed up in provocative flapper/burlesque outfits and their children dressed the same with plenty of make-up. This play, I'm assuming, is about unwed mothers and their children. At one point the pregnant African-American mother who bares her stomach pretends to have a baby. All the other mothers gather around her pulling out a little baby from under her legs. A very strange and uncomfortable scene, but also a beautiful expressive metaphor for the documentary and Karen's search to understand her biological mother.
I enjoyed seeing the various shots of Austin, specifically the Hyde Park neighborhood where I grew up and live today. The entire neighborhood is represented by a toy model with plastic figurines on swings and the sound of children laughter playing over the image. While panning across this model, intercuts of Hyde Park are shown like the Avenue B deli and Shipe Park. As an Austinite, I know Hyde Park as the "family" neighborhood, but it's also a little "keep Austin weird." This is perfect in showing Karen, this mother and child, a family, but a unique family in that Karen was adopted by two wonderful parents and now has a child out of wedlock.
Overall, I think this was a good documentary with a unique and original storytelling style. As an adopted child by my father, I felt close to the issue presented in the film which is unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock. It highlights current times, in how it is more acceptable now to see single mothers than it was thirty years ago.