Adopted and raised in different continents, identical twin sisters discover each other on social media by chance. Anaïs, a French fashion student living in London, stumbled upon a YouTube video featuring Sam, an actress living in Los Angeles, and was stunned by the uncanny resemblance. Upon further digging, Anaïs uncovered that Sam was also a Korean adoptee with the same birthdate and decided to reach out via Facebook after 25 years of separation. The biographical documentary, Twinsters, follows the journey of Sam and Anaïs as they initially connect through technology, meet each other in person, and visit Korea together (2015). By embarking on the adoption search process together, they combat the invisibility that transnational adoption tends to impose on adoptee identities.
After the discovery, Anaïs and Sam chat for hours via Skype and Whatsapp. Their relationship is not one based on sorrow for the last 25 years lost, but of gratitude for the opportunity to connect with one another moving forward. Many Korean adoptees face cultural and racial in-betweenness due to their transnational identity (Nelson, 152). Belonging to two countries, but not fully identifying with either one fosters the in-between identity and ultimately invisibility. Upon reuniting, Sam and Anaïs are able to combat the inflicted invisibility since they can lean on each other with full understanding of what it means to be a Korean adoptee.
As the film progresses, Sam and Anaïs discuss their upbringings with one another. Sam expresses that she never felt like an outcast growing up in America— “My family was white, my town was white. [My race] was never an issue, because everyone was really accepting.” (Twinsters, 2015). According to Nelson, the disconnect between adoptees and other immigrant communities leads to the erasure of adoptee’s ethnic identity (168). The insulation of Korean adoptees from the immigrant community prevents them from identifying with those of similar ethnicity. Like many Korean adoptees, perhaps Sam’s white community is accepting of her, because she has fully assimilated into their community and the lack of contact with immigrant communities further safeguards that. Adopting families want to acculturate adoptees as quickly as possible since slipping into one’s Korean identity threatens the primacy of the adoptive family (Nelson, 154). The façade of acceptance projected by a homogenous, white community fosters the adoptee’s invisibility by deterring them from seeking out other communities.
Anaïs confides in Sam that “she did not choose to be adopted; she was thrown into it” (Twinsters, 2015). Growing up, Anaïs experienced traumatic moments that imposed a negative light on her adoption. A boy on the playground once disparaged her, “you don’t look like your family and you were given up, because your family doesn’t love you” (Twinsters, 2015). She did not receive complete acceptance from her immediate community, and it was likely more difficult to connect with external immigrant communities in France. Although the demographic is much more diverse in America than France, Anaïs’ difficulties with her adoption seemed to have stemmed more from her particular situation as well. She felt as though her biological parents did not want her and that her adoptive parents “had to get [her],” because they could not have children (Twinsters, 2015). Anaïs questioned the full acceptance from her parents as their daughter and from her surrounding community. Although Sam did not undergo that doubt, it does not necessarily equate to genuine acceptance as mentioned previously.
After visiting each other in Paris and Los Angeles, Sam persuades Anaïs to visit Korea with her in order to search for their birth mother and understand their roots. The Korean adoption agency attempts to contact their birth mother, who continuously denies ever having children, let alone twins. Nelson states that the birth search process and the reunion serve as a central part of Korean adoptee identities (158). When the birth search ends in failure, as most do, Korean adoptees are left drained and disappointed. Although Sam and Anaïs were not able to meet their birth mother, they did not let that overshadow their reunion with one another. Anaïs expresses, “I think what I was really missing was Sam. Sam represents so much more than the rest, because we have the same story and we’re blood family” (Twinsters, 2015). Their reunion and relationship ward off the invisibility that comes with transnational adoption and the birth search journey.