Finding Christa is a new film by the brave Camille Billops about her decision in 1961 to put her 4-year-old daughter, Christa, up for adoption. I say the director is brave because it takes some courage to reveal yourself, as Billops does here, as one of the most selfish, smug, thoughtlessly cruel people I’ve ever seen.
It is heartbreaking to see photographs of Christa at 4, a pretty little girl with wide eyes, and to hear — in interviews that Billops filmed with the now-adult Christa Liebig — how lonely and terrible she felt when her mother, a single parent, left her in an orphanage in Los Angeles. Christa was adopted by an apparently loving couple and grew to be a smart, confident person, an aspiring singer and songwriter. But at age 35 she still asks, ”Why did you leave me, Mommy?”
Mommy left her, says Billops, because she ”just wanted not to be a mother.” She aspired to be an artist — a painter, a sculptor — and Christa was in the way. ”Now I see it as a feminist statement,” says the stunningly fatuous Billops. It’s obvious that Billops looked upon Finding Christa, which won the Documentary Grand Prize this year at the Sundance Film Festival, as an artistic justification for abandoning her daughter, as a way of mending their relationship. Hobbled by some dramatic scenes that seem staged for the camera, Finding Christa is still fascinating: a portrait of the filmmaker as a self-absorbed creep. B