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The Born Identity Crisis

MOVIE REVIEW
Off and Running (2010)

Avery
First Run Features

Even by the standards of transracial modern America, Avery Klein-Cloud has had an unusual upbringing. The African-American, Texas-born adopted daughter of two Brooklyn-dwelling Jewish lesbians, they and her brothers Rafi (biracial) and Zay-Zay (Korean born) call their family the “United Nations.” With so many discordant background elements at play — such a clear sense of belonging in one way while being forever intrinsically removed in another — it comes as no surprise when teenage Avery begins an investigation of her biological background.

Her search for self-understanding — carried out in a mature, understated fashion — is the subject of Nicole Opper’s documentary, “Off and Running.” Blessed with candid subjects, a sure sense of emotional honesty and an eye for drawing out the power of small, intimate moments, Ms. Opper has produced a memorable, deeply affecting film. It runs a brief 75 minutes, but it’s no lightweight. “Off and Running” lingers in the memory, thanks to the enormous ramifications of Avery’s journey and the deep love that radiates from the mothers who try to comprehend and support her pursuit of her truth while they face their own insecurities over it.

The picture works on a personal level because Avery is so smart and forthright about her feelings, her experiences growing up “white and Jewish” and her strong desire to understand where she’s come from. Home movies and family dinners, combined with scenes of her at track practice and others in which she hangs out with her Jewish and African-American groups of friends (fully fitting in with neither), vividly depict a young woman ready to come to terms with her past and make her mark on the world. In its own low-key, heartfelt way, the film explores an essential question that transcends the sociology of the “post-racial” Obama era and gets at the core of life itself: To what extent does our biology define us?

OFF AND RUNNING

Opened on Jan. 29 in Manhattan.

Directed by Nicole Opper; written by Avery Klein-Cloud and Ms. Opper; director of photography, Jacob Okada; edited by Cheree Dillon; music by Daniel Bernard Roumain; produced by Ms. Opper and Sharese Bullock; released by First Run Features. Running time: 1 hour 16 minutes. This film is not rated.

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