To the Moon and Back

Directed by Susan Morgan Cooper Morgan Cooper Productions, 2015, 86 minutes When countries close to intercountry adoption, it often leaves hundreds of children and families in the pipeline, unable to finalize an adoption for months and sometimes even years. The reasons are often complex and can come with a back story that extends several years. The closure of Russian adoptions to the United States by Vladimir Putin is one example of an extensive back story that has left many children and families without finalization and closure for more than four years. The new film, “To the Moon and Back,” uncovers what happened before the ban was enacted and what its impact has been. The film follows the journey of Miles and Carol Harrison as they travel to Russia to adopt their son, Chase. It shares the tragic story of Chase’s death after Miles forgot him in his car while he was at work (Miles was acquitted in the case in 2008). Chase’s death is one of 19 deaths of Russian children (there are more than 46,000 adoptions of Russian children to the United States) cited by the Russian government as the reason for the closure of adoptions. Putin ultimately named the adoption ban after Chase, using his Russian name, the Dima Yakovlev Law. While Putin used Chase’s death, as well as the deaths of the other adoptees, as the reason for the ban, other factors in U.S./Russian relations may more closely come into play. In 2012 the Magnitsky Act was enacted by the U.S. government in response to the death of Sergei Magnitsky who was murdered in prison for testifying to corruption by Russian officials. The Magnitsky Act froze the assets and denied visas to Russian officials connected to Sergei Magnitsky’s death. Directly following that law’s passage, Putin moved to pass the adoption ban. Since its enactment on Jan. 1, 2013, there have been no adoptions of children from Russia to the United States, even those that were deeply into the process. For four years those children and families have waited to be united as the government bureaucracy has played out. And even though Putin called for Russian citizens to foster and adopt in the wake of the ban, more than 740,000 children currently live in Russian institutions. The film cites that out of every 10 children who age out of a Russian orphanage, four become involved in crime or prostitution, four will become alcoholics or drug addicts, one will commit suicide and only one child will have a chance at a normal life. Paralympic gold medalist and Russian adoptee Jessica Tatiana Long narrates the film that uncovers the back story of the Russian adoption ban. “To the Moon and Back” is a heart-wrenching tale of tragedy and loss. From the Harrisons who share the story of their child’s death to the pre-adoptive parents and children caught in the ban, this film will haunt viewers. The film provides the unfortunate portrayal of how children can be harmed when bureaucracy gets in the way of the child’s best interests. “To the Moon and Back” provides a good primer on the breakdown in Russian-U.S. relations and international adoptions. It may provide viewers with insight into the continued political challenges between the United States and Russia. — Reviewed by Kim Phagan-Hansel

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