How This Year’s Oscar Nominees Can Help Adoptive Families Get Talking About Adoption

This guest post is Addison Cooper, the founder of Adoption at the Movies.

Hollywood is preparing to honor this year’s best films at the 2017 Academy Awards, and Adoption at the Movies has just honored this year’s most adoption-friendly films with our Adoption at the Movies Awards.

2016 produced several great films, many of which can be particularly useful to adoptive families.

Adoptive parents are often aware of important conversations about adoption that they should have with their children, but are sometimes unconfident or uncertain as to how to start them.

Movies can be bridges into the conversations, making it easier to get those discussions started. Here are three Oscar-nominated films that could be particularly helpful to adoptive families: Lion, Moana, and Piper.



Lion  is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, and also a nominee for the Adoption at the Movies Award for Film of the Year.

It tells the story of Saroo Brierly, who was adopted internationally from India by an Australian family.

As a young adult, Saroo remembers fragments of his early childhood; he was lost as a child, and he believes that his birth family must still be looking for him.

Saroo taps his memory and uses Google Earth to find the neighborhood of his childhood and then, with the knowledge of his adoptive family, he sets off to find his birth family.

I loved how supportive Saroo’s adoptive family was of his desire to find his birth family, and I love that Saroo was able to conceptualize his reunion as an addition to his life rather than a replacement of his adoptive family.

As adoptive parents watch Lion, they could talk about how they would respond if their adopted child wanted to find their birth family.

Discussions could start with questions like these: What did Saroo finding his birth family mean for him? What did it mean for his birth mother? What did it mean for the Brierleys?


Nominated for the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, Moana is Disney’s tale of a Polynesian princess who wants to explore beyond the borders of her island kingdom.

She encounters Maui, a demigod who we later learn was adopted by the gods after his human parents abandoned him.

Maui is legendary, but many of his heroic deeds seem to be rooted in his deep desire for the admiration of humans.

Moana helps Maui to see that although he was adopted by the gods, he has created his own identity and worth.

After watching Maui, adoptive families can talk with their children about identity formation and about how children can thrive even after experiencing great losses.

Some sample questions that families might use after watching Moana include: Who are you—the voice inside you, your heritage, or something else? How did you feel about Maui’s story of himself as a baby? How can he have a happy life, even though that happened to him? What might help him when he is sad? What do you know about your heritage? What do you wish you knew? What do you imagine?


Piper, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short, is the short film paired with Finding Dory.

A young seabird becomes terrified after an encounter with a wave interrupts its hunt for food.

After bravely facing another wave, the bird learns that waves reveal food sources.

After watching this together, families could talk with their young children about how things that were legitimately scary in the past can no longer be frightening one day.

Even though they were not nominated for any Academy Awards, Finding Dory and Kung Fu Panda 3 are two other films from 2016 that are particularly meaningful to adoptive families.

In Finding Dory, a forgetful fish develops confidence that she will never forget her parents, even though she has been separated from them for some time.

Dory has formed some close relationships with Marlin and Nemo, who have become like family to her. When she finally does find her parents, she is overjoyed, but also says that Marlin and Nemo are her family as well.

A similar experience happens in Kung Fu Panda 3 when the panda Po and his birth and adoptive fathers must navigate their relationships with each other while Po tries to define his own identity.

With some planning and intentionality, your next trip to the theater (or your next Netflix movie) can be a great way to spend time together as a family while also offering an invitation into healthy family discussions about adoption! See you at the movies!

Addison Cooper, LCSW is the founder of His first book, Adoption at the Movies: A Year of Adoption-Friendly Movie Nights to Get Your Family Talking is available now on Amazon.

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