Offspring, Barry Stevens
My brother and I are our mother and father’s flesh and blood. We are products of our parents. They
exist through us. We are as much a part of their lives as they are of ours. Barry Stevens and his sister cannot say this.
I cannot imagine the shock Barry felt when his mother told him the truth.
His father was not his biological father. Barry was the product of donor insemination
(DI .) Sperm from an unknown donor was artificially inseminated into his mother. Part of his lineage was a mystery. From
this point on his life changed.
Barry’s biggest challenge in this piece was grabbing the audience’s
attention. In class he said that a personal documentary must have a larger purpose than just the person. The piece must open itself up to the whole audience on various levels.
I am a good example of a someone who would has little in common with
Barry. I am the biological child of both my parents. My father is still living. I only know a few people who are adopted and I had never knew DI babies existed fifty
years ago. However, Barry caught my attention and the attention of others through
alternate avenues of storytelling.
Barry caught the audience’s attention on three levels. First, he presented himself as the underdog. The odds were
clearly stacked against him. His insemination procedure took place about fifty
years ago. At the time it was illegal and was kept very secret. All of those involved were either dead or their whereabouts are unknown.
He had few leads to follow and they might not be accurate. This is what
caught my attention. I always go for the underdog.
Second, the film unfolded like a mystery film. Barry was like a detective. He followed clues that led him to other DI babies and to those who knew anything
about Dr. Wiesner.
gathered throughout the film implied that Wiesner is Barry’s biological father.
They even looked alike. But
as in all mysteries the evidence was misleading. Wiesner was not Barry’s
father. There was even a surprise ending.
Third, Barry built an intimate relationship with the audience. Barry achieved this by talking to the camera. He was very
engaging on camera and he built a quick repour with the me. By talking to the
camera he not only spoke to the audience as a whole but also to each individual viewer.
Everyone would see him in a different light. This is what gave his character
The truth about his conception both opened questions and explained mysteries for
Barry. He thought his
method of conception explained his father’s distant personality. Barry said his father always seemed to walk on the outside. For
a while he even thought his father wanted to walk out on the family.
However, Barry’s biological father was a mystery. All that the doctors told his mother was that the donor was professional and healthy. They told even Barry’s mother to keep the procedure a secret.
Doctors didn’t tell his mother that the donor was Jewish or that
the donor used his sperm in other women. Barry found out this information from David,
his half brother.
David found out he was artificially inseminated after his parents divorced. He always wanted a brother.
David and Barry crossed paths after a mutual acquaintance thought they
wrote the same. They had a meeting in England and
Barry got a sample of David’s DNA. Barry brought the sample back
to Toronto for testing.
most powerful scene was the doctor telling Barry the test results showed him and David were related. Barry was flabbergasted. His eyes shot out of their
sockets while his mouth dropped. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t
know where to turn. He was clearly not expecting this answer. While watching
this scene I wondered if this was his same reaction when his mother told him he was a baby of science.
It was interesting to watch Barry and David’s relationship grow.
At their first meeting they certainly didn’t look like brothers or act like them.
Even Barry said that he didn’t like David at first. But after they discovered their common bond they grew closer
to one another.
They looked more comfortable around each other when they were talking. They even had things in common like both being actors at one point. The search for their father only strengthened their bond. Together they attended talk shows and meetings
in order to inform others about their search for other DI babies. Like brothers, they depended on one another for guidance
and reassurance. This was stark contrast to their first meeting. As their relationship
grew they seem to act and look more alike.
Barry’s quest to find his father quickly turned into family reunion. Through David he adopted a whole new family of cousins, nieces and nephews. This was a part of the legacy left behind by the unknown donor.
During their search the music fit the film perfectly. The staccato-type playing on the piano built tension each time Barry came to talk with someone who was
involved in the artificial insemination. The music portrayed Stevens nervousness
and excitement each time he knocked on a door or entered a room. It built suspense
for what was to come.
DI babies whom they interviewed during their search added another dimension to the film.
It showed that Barry and David’s story didn’t represent the
same story as other DI babies. Some were ashamed of their past and did
not want to know the identity of their biological father. These DI babies had different ways of dealing with their past.
The first DI baby was Wendy Barton.
Mary Barton’s daughter. Mary Barton was Wiesner’s colleague
and lover. Wendy did not want to know anything about the DNA tests and she refused
to give Barry a DNA sample. In class Barry said she did not want to know she was not Wiesner’s daughter. Unlike David and Barry she was complacent to live in mystery.
Next was Sally. She was another baby of science. She wanted to remain anonymous. She hid her face. Clearly her past as a DI baby was painful. She seemed ashamed and alone.
Although she gave Stevens a DNA sample Sally did not think she would find a relative.
She was wrong.
Jonathan was Wiesner’s son.
Although he gave Barry a DNA sample it did not match. However, it did
match the sample given by Sally. Sally found out that Wiesner was her father
and that Jonathan was her brother. Another family had been reunited.
Barry’s research not only extended his family but it also extended
Ribonovich, 93 was Wiesner’s
only colleague Barry found who was still alive. He represented the odds that
were truly stacked against Barry. Ribonovich didn’t know much of anything. He was not a donor and he didn’t have any solid leads. His only advice to Barry was to give up his search.
Ribonovich’s character was amusing.
He gave pronounced gestures with his hands and face. Barry noticed this and used it effectively in tape editing. Editing a series of Ribonovich’s “I don’t know” gestures with his head shaking
and hands flailing was both amusing and funny. Barry used these gestures to taunt
the reality of the situationn; finding his father would be close to impossible. He
had a strong desire to keep searching.
The ending of the film presented both sides of Barry’s story. A separate series of DNA tests showed that he had a daughter. For the first time the
audience saw Barry as both a father discovering he had a child and a child who was still searching for his father. Barry was
the man he was trying to find. He was a biological father. His search had come from circle.
The ending was perfect.