Fire Circle Films

The Hanji Box

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The Hanji Box


Hannah, a recently divorced art historian has decided to downsize. She is selling the big house in the suburbs that she has lived in for 18 years. Her adopted daughter Rose is helping her pack up the house. But Rose, to her mother's dismay, resists cleaning out her own room, despite the fact that she left the house and moved in with her boyfriend 6 months ago.

The tension between mother and daughter escalates until finally, an item of great importance to both of them gets broken: Rose's Hanji box—made from traditional Korean paper—that Hannah and her husband had bought for Rose years ago in Koreatown. Or did they? Rose claims to have brought it with her from Korea—a gift from her biological birthmother.

Determined to prove Rose wrong, and to fix the box, Hannah takes the train to Koreatown to find the store where she bought the box. In the process, she embarks on a journey of cultural discovery and adoption—her own.

Director's Statement

I have always been fascinated by the complexity of people's emotional lives, and how political, historical and social forces outside us affect us internally.

The Hanji Box is a cross-cultural love story, inspired by Meg Dean Daiss’s essay about her own experience as an adoptive mother. I was intensely moved and fascinated by her immersion into Korean culture, and her desire to connect with the birth culture of her adopted child. I was also interested in her love affair with a Korean man: To me it seemed as if she unconsciously wanted to become Korean—so as to erase the cultural and racial difference between her and her adopted Korean children.

One could almost say that The Hanji Box is an adoption story in reverse: an adoptive mother wants to be adopted by her daughter's birth culture.

The film also tells a universal story about family, loss, love and reconciliation. It's hard enough to grow up, and it's hard enough to be a parent. With adoption, and especially inter-racial adoption, all of those family dynamics—of identity, of worthiness, self-image, possessiveness—can become magnified to an even greater degree. To me it seems a ripe and potentially dramatic area to explore.

—Nora Jacobson