Imbued with dignity and grace, Malene Choi’s first feature-length fiction (after her hybrid doc-fiction The Return in 2018) innovatively explores the bonds of blood and family, and ideas around belonging. Returning home to his adoptive parents in West Denmark after graduating high school, Carl is embraced by their sweet love, and yet feels drawn to something beyond the family farm and their expectations for him. Writer-director Choi elegantly explores Carl’s unresolved desire to discover more about his birth and roots in South Korea, blending her keen documentarian eye for quotidian rural rituals with distinctive dreamlike elements to striking effect. With its exquisite sense of place and sensitive rendering of the nuances of sometimes challenging relationships Choi and her terrific cast create a work of surprising and quietly moving beauty.
A stunningly beautiful, quiet and extremely powerful coming-of-age story of identity and
belonging, THE QUIET MIGRATION spotlights outstanding performances, stunning visuals, and the remarkably assured talent of Writer/Director Malene Choi (“The Return”, 2018).
The Quiet Migration centers around transnational adoption and the difficult formation of kinship in adoptive families. In some cases, the adoptee is sent back as the abilities of the adoptee does not correspond with the demands of the adoptive parents. In other cases, the screening of the adoptive parents by authorities is not sufficient as emphasis is rather put on financial capacity rather than the parents’ capability to become a multicultural family.
Through the years, I’ve talked to countless adoptees and their common ground has undeniably been the challenge of forming a kinship and the difficulty of becoming a united family. Several has even doubted if they belong to their family equal to the rest of the family members.
We have been silent about our lives in our adoptive families; not all of them were prepared for being a multicultural family, but you don’t bite the hands that feed you. We live as a hidden minority in Denmark amongst the majority - within white adoptive families.
It gives us a more privileged status with more rights than other immigrants. We are more protected, but also more vulnerable, because we came alone, migrated as babies or very young children. That’s why transnational adoption is called the quiet migration.
Many of us stood alone without access to our own story and without resemblance to anyone in our surroundings. We were forced to hide the loss of our original family, culture and language. We stood with our Asian bodies out of place, where as a woman you are dictated by a fetishistic desire and as a man you experience a de-sexualization of your own body.
As teenagers we had to navigate beauty ideals that didn’t fit us. No one could have foreseen we also had to carry that burden.
I strive to describe how everything is osmosis – the leaves, the seeds, the colours, the tastes and the scents. The decay, the death and the painful is just below the surface of the bright, blue sky and the yellow corn fields. What I miss most about Korea is how the sun colors the landscape in pastel colors, the pink and yellow in soft shades.
How the food and all the different fermented vegetables served in bowls are never mixed together. You combine the tastes by placing them in a mint leave in your hand, rolling it around a piece of meat before eating it. Carl’s longing for his origin also deals with colors and tastes, warm temperatures and landscape, and I want to dwell on this aspect in The Quiet Migration as a full image of his loss.
My intention with The Quiet Migration is to include us and our existence as a part of history,
to make hidden lives visible and from an insider’s perspective shed light on some of the
unforeseen consequences that this unusual kind of migration causes.
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Malene Choi
Written by: Malene Choi, Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen
Produced by: Maria Møller Kjeldgaard
Cinematography: Louise McLaughlin
Editing: Sofie Steenberger, Malene Choi
Production Design: Josephine Farsø
Costume Design: Mathilde Kjær Bang
Make-Up & Hair: Maya Geertsen Køster, Ann Borghelt
Sound: Brian Dyrby, Kristoffer Salting
Visual Effects: Mihnea Teodor Rusu, David Stroe
Casting: Gro Therp
Cast: Cornelius Won Riedel-Clausen (Carl), Bodil Jørgensen (Karen), Bjarne Henriksen (Hans)
Nominations and Awards
- European Discovery - Prix Fipresci 2023