Passport to Parenthood
- TV Series
Davor and Nina return to visit their homeland Croatia. Whilst making a documentary in the orphanages of Zagreb they decide to fulfil their dream of a family by adopting a child. Their search... Read allDavor and Nina return to visit their homeland Croatia. Whilst making a documentary in the orphanages of Zagreb they decide to fulfil their dream of a family by adopting a child. Their search begins, they meet Petra a lively and inquisitive girl in her foster home outside Zagreb. ... Read allDavor and Nina return to visit their homeland Croatia. Whilst making a documentary in the orphanages of Zagreb they decide to fulfil their dream of a family by adopting a child. Their search begins, they meet Petra a lively and inquisitive girl in her foster home outside Zagreb. Born prematurely to an alcoholic mother and unknown father, Petra suffered from severe neg... Read all
Some of the most insightful questions, the most arrow-to-the-heart powerful, come from the youngest star of this film. Three-year-old Petra steals the show.
Melbourne filmmaker Davor Dirlic did not go to Croatia planning to make Passport to Parenthood; he went there in search of an idea for a film. Instead, with his wife Nina and Petra, the daughter they adopted there, he became his own story.
Davor and Nina immigrated to Australia from Croatia in 1989, then returned in 2000 to see family and hopefully make a film about post-war Zagreb. The couple began visiting the city's orphanages, with Davor searching for a story to hang his film on. But from the first day of filming, the sight of so many children without families sparked powerful emotions in the husband and wife.
After many years of unsuccessfully trying to have a child of their own, and surrounded by the orphans of Zagreb, Nina told her husband she wanted to adopt one. From that moment the couple turned the cameras on themselves, resolving to follow their story.
The decision to adopt a child brought enormous conflicts and pressures for the couple and often it is hard to watch as they cry or argue or fumble their way through the emotional minefield; but the camera doesn't stop filming.
We see, for example, Nina telling Davor she wants to adopt - "What did you expect, I'm a human being, not a camera", she says of how the children's plight affected her. We see the phone call when Nina learns the adoption has been approved, and the day the couple arrives at Petra's foster parents to take the then three-year-old home.
In what must have been a test of the film-makers' determination to keep the cameras on, we see Davor meeting Petra's birth mother, and the argument about what abuse and neglect the little girl may have suffered.
Predictably, their bid to adopt a child is complicated by bureaucracy - Croatian and Australian - and at times the couple faces seemingly unbearable frustrations. The newly created family is separated: Nina must return to her job in Melbourne, leaving Davor behind with Petra, who cannot get a visa to travel to Australia. What they hoped would be a few months apart became almost a year.
At times it is hard to watch Petra as she cries and sulks and misbehaves, as any toddler would under the circumstances. Was Davor tempted to turn off the camera, to shield the small child, confused and in pain, from the public's gaze?
Speaking from his home in Melbourne, Davor says he and Nina discussed how the filming may affect Petra. In fact, he says, there were many things they did not film and when Petra asked for the camera to go off, it did.
Both parents, Davor says, are committed to raising Petra as openly as possible; nothing about the adoption was kept from her, and seeing the filming at every stage was part of this. The camera became a part of their lives.
At times, the camera becomes like a third person between Davor and Petra, and they use it to say things to each other they might not be able to otherwise.
"When we first walked into the foster family's house I had a camera with me, I was filming all the time. Petra's first impression of me was this man with a camera. It just happened that she was adopted by a filmmaker. I adopted her and she adopted me in return," Davor says.
Nina says that although she found it extremely difficult to have such intensely personal experiences recorded, she always believed the film would be worthwhile for Petra. Families who adopt children are sometimes advised to compile a "life book" or record of the child's history before adoption; for Petra the film - sometimes harsh but always honest - has become her life book.
"I don't think anyone will have a problem with it, because it's a nice story and it's an honest story," she says.
Neither parent is concerned about what response the film may have among seven-year-old Petra's peers.
Davor is also hopeful that the film may help others in a similar position. "It was a huge life-changing experience. We learnt a great deal and we want to share it," he says.
The last image of Petra in the film is a cheerful one. We see a beautiful happy child, proudly showing her classmates the cardboard box camera she and her father have made.
- Jun 24, 2004