As an adoptive parent of 2 Eastern European Children both in orphanages since birth, I found this movie to be a NEEDED movie to see for those who about to take the strange and unknown journey into International Adoption. It was pretty strange to watch the movie and have the street of the orphanage Vanya was looking for being the same name of the street our daughter's orphanage was on.
We had the rare opportunity of staying in the country we were adopting from for 31 days and lived in an apartment in the city, which was about 40 minutes from the Village our daughters came from. We also were able to visit other orphanages and a TB Sanitarium with a Russian friend who regularly visits the children.
We found the conditions portrayed in the movie to be accurate. When I had to use the toilet, I was led to the "guest toilet". It was an old decrpid shed with a bucket. The stench was so bad, I was willing to wait for a few more hours until we went back to our apartment. Our daughters did not have that privelege. Baths, once a week. Clothing? Old, dirty, holey, shoes too small, if at all, but big ole' smiles on all those little faces hoping that you will take them home. Looks of hopelessness, sadness, despair, no future, no hope. We sat and talk to a group of teens who wanted to know if they could come to America. Tears streamed down their faces as we spoke to them and answered their questions. We brought sanitary napkins for the girls, toilet paper, shampoo, soap, laundry soap. Many times they do without these basic things. They have no running water.
They eat sub standard food and many have permenant health problems because of it.
Both of our daugthers were told they would be killed or sold. They were terrified. They were not told this by other kids. They were told this by workers. This was portrayed in the movie.
Our daughters were abused in the orphanages. This was portrayed in the movie.
(If you really want to see the reality, read the Human Rights Report on Orphan Neglect )
THEN... the movie touches on the "commodity" issue. Adoption is legal in Russia and Eastern Europe. It takes HUGE amounts of frustrating paperwork and you come by invitation only. The money changing hands is NOT to purchase a child, but to charge for services: Paperwork translation, travel services etc. But it would be naive to think that there are not those unscrupulous facilitators who make big money off of desperate people.
There is HUGE corruption within the agencies that permit adoption. Russia permits independent adoption without the use of an agency, This waas portrayed in the movie.
All the children want their mommies. They dream of having their mothers. Vanya's desire to see his mother again is accurate. I like the end, which I will not mention here. As Vanya is writing to his friend to let him know that he is ok, hasn't been sold for body parts and is happy, you are left to wonder, is it true? False? It gives you the true sense of hopelessness that portrays the life of an orphan.
And for those skeptics. Yes there are propaganda orphanages, just to please foreigners.