vimeo pswd: saudade2016 PDN Photo Annual Multimedia
2016 International Photo / Lucie Awards Multimedia + Photography + Storytelling
2015 Visura Multimedia Grant 1st place finalist
2015 International Photo / Lucie Awards Multimedia + Photography + Storytelling
2015 New York Photo Festival Documentary Photography
2015 Seoul International Photo Festival Documentary Photography
2014 New York Photo Festival Documentary Photography
Saudade / Name of the Father is a cinematic odyssey investigating themes of identity, abuse, and loss as they relate to adoption via poetic, personal storytelling.
The middle-American veil of secrecy fashioned in the decades preceding Roe v Wade to enshroud a birth mother's shame forced women into homes for unwed mothers, coercing them to give their babies up for adoption, and unlawfully sealing their identities. Saudade incises those seals, exposing lifetimes of secrecy and wounding to allow for regeneration.
Saudade incorporates multi-generational still and moving images – from traditional family archives, to complex social media-based virtual landscapes – as a means of identification, communication, and preservation along intersecting lineages.
Personal Statement by Theresa OrtolaniI was born at dawn, as 'Dawn', 4:30am – as the sun was rising in New York.
In Portugal, my fatherland, I am called ‘Aurora’.
But, my mother did not raise me. My mother took me home – smuggled me in utero, across International borders – long before TSA's Advanced Imaging Technology was invented, when no one could possibly detect the made-in-Portugal-out-of-wedlock embryo she secretly hid under her dress.
The middle-American veil of secrecy and coercion fashioned in the decades preceding Roe v Wade to enshroud a birth mother's shame forced her into a home for unwed mothers.
I was first fostered, then adopted, by a Mexican migrant worker. The oldest of 14, Rosa had only ever learned how to 'mother', because hers was always busy nursing the others . . . while fingering her rosary beads. That's how I learned to count in Spanish. But beyond 'diez' and 'Dios', Español was prohibited in our household because it was un-American.
My adoptive father, an Italian-American cop, saved her. Married her, that is. But she wasn't able to give him children. Abuse was common among her tribe. The truth surrounding her hysterectomy remains vague. Her secret. Rosa holds many secrets.
I learned of my adoption at age five. My older, also-adopted, brother told me. (I screamed.) But he wasn't supposed to tell. He must have overheard a 'grown-up' conversation. Brian; the hustler. Homeless – when I’m not supporting him and his habits. Adoption was our secret; we were told to never tell.
I spent a lifetime searching – at first internally, then actively – and it's only within the past few years that I have come to know my biological family. My adoptive father was a detective. He taught me well.
After locating Gaspar, my birth-father, in Portugal, he became my guide. Frenetically retracing our family's footsteps, filming as a means of self-discovery (for me) and repentance (for him). The compelling stories of my family lineage – spanning generations of artists, poets, politicians, law-makers, CIA informants, 'boarding school bastards’. A family legacy built from the ground up, then everything lost. Down with the revolution, chased with casks of fine Port wine.
Until now, my lineage, my language, my homeland has also been lost to me. Saudade, a uniquely Portuguese term, describes a deep sense of loss and longing for someone or something that is absent, and the hope for its return. But with it, lurks the repressed knowledge that it may never return.
"Saudade is a uniquely Portuguese term that has no direct English translation. It describes a deep sense of loss, longing, lack, melancholy and nostalgia for someone, or something, that is absent.... Saudade is a distinct mark of Portuguese language and culture. It has been said that this, more than anything else, represents what it is to be Portuguese." – Bell, 1912