First Person Plural

Director: Deann Borshay Liem

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


When Deann Borshay set out to make a documentary about herself, she found she was making a film about three different people from two different countries. First Person Plural is the touching story of her struggle to set right a case of mistaken identity that cast a shadow over her otherwise-successful adoption. The Borshays, a typical middle-class American family, learned about the foster parents program for South Korean orphans while watching television one afternoon. After two years, Alveen and Arnold Borshay adopted Cha Jung Hee, and, on March 3, 1966, they picked up their bundle of love from the airport and named her Deann. Once in America, the newest Borshay tried to retain her memories of another family in Korea, but her assimilation into California teenage life proved too powerful.

Depression and haunting dreams in later life drove Deann to investigate her adoption file. In it she found pictures of two little girls: One was named Cha Jung Hee, but the one who most resembled Deann was called Ok Chin. More than learning she was not the person she thought she was, her investigation uncovered the story of her unknown family and the web of dubious socioeconomic forces that placed Ok Chin on a plane to America.
Archival footage of 1950s Korea and 8-mm home movies of her American family combine with powerful footage of Borshay and her two families as they attempt to reconcile a daunting legacy of cultural and moral contradictions. Emotionally poignant and politically relevant, First Person Plural is personal documentary at its best.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details


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