“Found,” a new feature documentary that premiered on Netflix in mid-October, has a distinct island connection — it is, in part, about the experience of Chloe Lipitz, a now 17-year-old girl who grew up on Vashon.
The film follows the teenager’s journey to China with her newfound cousins, Sadie and Lily, whom she met online after 23AndMe revealed the close genetic bond between them. All had been adopted from China by Americans, but raised in different parts of the United States and in very different circumstances.
The trip to China, in 2019, was their chance to discover their origins and early history — an effort that was guided with great sensitivity by Liu Hao, a Chinese woman who has made it her life mission to help adoptees reconcile their many questions and emotions about their identities. At the same time, her efforts also aim to bring closure to Chinese biological parents of the adoptees — many of whom felt forced by China’s one-child policy to give up their newborn daughters.
The New York Times called the film “smart, illuminating and tender,” and the Hollywood Reporter praised it for its nuance.
“Its comfort with ambivalence and ambiguity proves a strength, allowing the girls and their loved ones the space to work through confusing or contradictory emotions without trying to tie them up in neat little conclusions,” said critic Angie Han.
For the Lipitz clan, the film is quite literally a family affair, directed and produced by Amanda Lipitz, who is Chloe’s aunt and a successful documentarian. Gene and Sari Lipitz, Chloe’s parents, also appear in the film, as do the adoptive parents of Sadie and Lily.
According to Gene, the film’s origin began with his sister’s fascination with Chloe’s discovery of her cousins via 23AndMe.
“She wasn’t sure she had a film but she started in Jerusalem, at Chloe’s bat Mitzvah, and just went from there,” he said, adding that his sister became sure of the film’s trajectory when she met Liu Hao in China.
“I think she was the window into the pain and the search for identity and comfort that made this a robust and moving film,” he said, of Liu Hao.
He said that since the film has come out, many people have reached out to his sister, daughter, and her two cousins to talk about their own transnational adoption experiences.
“It’s wonderful to feel that this will have a positive effect on so many,” Gene said.
Sari also discussed the film’s release has had on her family.
“Some days it feels very real and it hits that millions of people can watch us on Netflix,” she said. “For the most part, it feels exciting that we seemed to have opened a door for a niche that needed a voice … We have struck a chord with so many struggling with who they are, especially when there are gaps in the early childhood story.”
The Lipitz family now winters in Arizona and spends long summers on Vashon, and Sari expressed gratitude to the many islanders who welcomed Chloe home to the island so many years ago.
“Vashon is where Chloe became a member of our family,” she said. “I remember those very early days on the island with her quite vividly. She marveled at the outdoors and wanted to be outside as much as possible. What a glorious place the island was for her to explore. So many island families supported us on our adoption journey.”
Sari added that it is a busy time for the family, as Chloe is in the throes of making college applications. She said that since the release of the film, there have been some days when the family all feels that they have had enough.
“It is so personal and raw sometimes that we need to just step away from it and take a breather,” she said, adding that she is paying close attention to how all the interest and acclaim surrounding the film is affecting her daughter emotionally.
“It’s been a big experience for her in so many ways,” Sari said. “Sometimes she needs time alone to process and reflect and other times she is happy to be in the fray of it. She is very close with her older sister Sophie … who is a tremendous advocate and resource for her. It’s definitely a balance and as a family, we are working closely to make sure that Chloe is well supported.”
Watch “Found” on Netflix.