Riding the coattails of Mike Leigh’s film Secrets & Lies, Bastard Nation—a relatively young and militant-minded adoptee-rights organization—will be holding a “black tie rally” outside the 69th annual Academy Awards ceremony on March 24.
Supporters from all across the country plan to gather outside LA’s Shrine Auditorium on Oscar night, dressed in formal attire and waving signs from the crowded bleachers, or marching with picket signs next to the grandstand area.
The purpose of the rally is to call attention to what Bastard Nation’s Michelle Hilbe describes as “a civil-rights issue.”
“We want the public to know that our records are sealed and that we don’t have access to our original birth certificates,” Hilbe said. “The system needs to change.”
In its short seven months of existence, Bastard Nation has gained steady popularity and membership in the adoptee community. Its “by any means necessary” approach has effectively aided adoptees in their search for their birth families, as well as affected change in open-records legislation. But why rally at the Oscars? “Through online discussions it was agreed that there were only two opportunities to reach a worldwide media audience — the Super Bowl and the Oscars,” said Hilbe. “This was a perfect opportunity to reach the public with our message.”
A perfect opportunity, also, because of the success of Secrets & Lies, a British film that deals with the subject of open records and the consequences that arise when an adoptee makes “first contact” with his or her birth family. Secrets & Lies is currently nominated for five Academy Awards, including for best picture.
Secrets & Lies deals with the very heart of why Bastard Nation exists. But Hilbe is quick to point out that what happens in the film is currently not possible in the US. “Secrets & Lies, Flirting With Disaster, even an episode of Melrose Place can give the general public the impression that an adult adoptee who decides to access his or her records and goes on a search can easily do that. And that’s simply not true. Secrets & Lies has given us the opportunity to say, ‘Look, this is a wonderful story—but you can’t do this in the US.'”
Bastard Nation has held “positive pickets” outside of theaters playing Secrets & Lies for months, spreading the gospel of open records to anyone who will listen. When the film was nominated by the Academy in mid-February, they felt it was time to follow the film all the way to top.
And the support has not been one-sided. Mike Leigh and Brenda Blethyn, the Oscar- nominated actress who plays Cynthia, the dowdy 40-ish Londoner who gets a surprise call from her long-forgotten birth daughter, both appeared at an open-records rally outside the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills on March 10, offering support for Bastard Nation’s cause as well as talking with adoptees about their search and reunion stories.
Leigh’s film, which is currently an underdog behind The English Patient and Jerry Maguire in the best picture race, stands to gain ground with Academy voters because of the buzz generated by Bastard Nation’s support, and the association was not by accident. “The publicity certainly couldn’t hurt Secrets & Lies,” says Hilbe. “I can’t speak for Mike Leigh’s personal motives, but he has been very gracious with adoptee-rights groups in this country. I think it’s a good partnership all around.”
As many as 70 people are expected to attend the Oscar rally, some arriving as early as Saturday morning to reserve enough seats on the usually crowded bleachers.
By Kris Kaiyala
© Copyright 1997 by BPI Entertainment News Wire. All rights reserved.