It’s natural for those who were adopted to be curious about the rest of their story.
“I think that my adoption story, it’s obviously a part of my life,” Lily Bolka said.
“But, whenever I was younger growing up, it was something I always pushed aside because I was very happy with my life and my family and my friends.”
As Bolka got older — she’s a senior at Oklahoma State University — she began to be more interested in finding out about her biological parents and adoption-related specifics.
“So then I took a DNA test and, you know, fast-forward later and I’m being featured in this documentary.”
Bolka’s quest to learn more about her past will be shared with the world. You can take the journey alongside her by watching “Found,” a documentary that debuts Wednesday, Oct. 20 on Netflix. Click here to watch a trailer.
During a phone interview in advance of the film’s release, Bolka said this: “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nerve-wracking, but I am excited for the world to see my story and everything I’ve been through.”
The story launches with Bolka picking up a couple of cousins she didn’t know she had.
Bolka, Chloe Lipitz and Sadie Mangelsdorf, China-born youths raised by American parents, independently took 23andMe ancestry tests and discovered they were cousins. Raised in different states, they connected remotely.
Chloe’s aunt sent Bolka a message on social media and communicated that she had a vision for a documentary about the cousins. The aunt — award-winning filmmaker Amanda Lipitz — provided some personal background and mentioned some of her accomplishments, just for cred’s sake.
“I thought it was a scam at first,” Bolka said.
Cautious, Bolka shared the message with her mother and asked if she could talk to her mother before deciding whether to welcome documentary cameras into her home.
Communication continued and Bolka was still unsure about accepting the documentary invitation “just because I had no idea how this would change my life.”
“And then my mom and I watched her film ‘Step’ and it was beautiful. It’s breathtaking. And my mom and I just decided to do it.”
“Step,” which tells the story of a female dance team in Baltimore, won a Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and garnered an NAACP Image Award for best documentary.
All aboard, Bolka joined her cousins for the filmmaker’s newest documentary — and a shared adventure in China in search of answers and their “lost” history.
With the help of My China Roots, a group that helps Chinese people around the world with family quests, the cousins searched for links to their pasts. Will any of them find their biological parents?
“This is a film about the way we are all connected, set against a backdrop of circumstances that changed the course of many lives,” Amanda Lipitz said in a statement published in the Hollywood Reporter. “It is for anyone who has the faith, courage and strength to find out who they really are.”
Raised in Oklahoma City, Bolka met her new cousins for the first time in China, where they visited orphanages and were reunited with nannies who once cared for them. They did some touristy things, too, like visiting the Great Wall. Bolka feels fortunate that she and her cousins were able to go prior to the COVID-19 pandemic because the same trip would not be possible now.
Bolka said she bonded with Sadie and Chloe in China. They remain close. Bolka responded to additional questions about “Found” during the interview:
How do you feel?
“I feel like I can’t even pick one feeling because it has been an emotional roller coaster. It’s really full of exciting news and it’s scary, but also sad, so it really is an emotional roller coaster. It’s all about how I handle my emotions, I guess, at this point.”
If people watch “Found” and love it, they’re going to love it because...
“I think that will people love the movie ‘Found’ because of our connection that Chloe and Sadie and I have made. I think that the movie is very raw and very intimate, and it does hit a hard subject. ... There is some sadness in the documentary, but, at the end of the day, you see the connection that we have made and, with that, you can tell that we will be in each others’ lives forever.”
I’m going to guess you’ve seen an advanced screener of the finished product. Tough or emotional for you to watch?
“It’s definitely hard. It’s hard to watch.”
But in a good way?
“Yes. I have really grown from (the whole experience), so, watching it ... there are very sad moments in that movie, but it also does make me happy seeing Chloe and Sadie and how they’ve grown from this journey and then watching myself grow.”
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