Special Screening: Instant Family

Marc Paredes

Just last March 30, 2019, ROHEI Foundation held a special screening of the movie Instant Family at Greenbelt Cinema 3. This activity marked the very first event of RF in the Philippines and the day was a complete success.

Months leading to the event, we hit the ground running by tapping its pool of creative, passionate and diligent volunteers to help create a program that would make the event meaningful and impactful to the audience. It was not just about watching another movie but creating an environment where every individual will leave with a different perspective about adoption—one that is more understanding, less stigmatized, and more open to the idea. We wanted to leave a lasting mark on the audience’s hearts and minds not only about the realities of adoption but also about its importance, beauty, and humanity.

Aside from the movie itself, which took everyone on an emotional roller coaster ride, one of the highlights of the event was the introductory video. The video showcased the powerful testimony and experience of Chrina and Jon Henson, founding members of the RF, who decided to adopt a beautiful baby girl. Woven into the video was the plight of the orphaned children in the country and the current state of adoption in the nation. Another high point of the event was when Rachel, a volunteer of RF, shared her own personal story through the lens of someone who was adopted. These two highlights deeply resonated with the audience as they put human faces, true stories, and real voices to an advocacy that could seem quite distant and disconnected for some. And just like what was shown at the end of the film, these two stories only represent a fraction of the countless stories of infants, little kids and teenagers longing to be part of a supportive, nurturing and loving family.

On the day of the event, the cinema was full of people from various demographics. There were a lot of young people who were accompanied by their friends. There were moms and dads who brought their kids along. Young and old couples were also present, as well as foreigners of different descents. People from as far as Los Baños Laguna and Pampanga also endured the long journey to Makati just to be present at the event. We loved the audience because, in a way, they also showed us that we can laugh, cry, and connect with others we might have just met.

That is what Instant Family is about. Aside from being fun, real, and lighthearted, the movie is full of lessons. Here are five things we learned from this film.

See the potential amidst the brokenness

Pete and Ellie Wagner are not your ordinary couple. When a normal couple would scurry away from mess and chaos, the Wagners would excitedly gravitate towards it. You see, Pete and Ellie are house flippers. Their job requires them to purchase, repair and remodel devastated houses. When they go house hunting, they’re not worried about seeing worn-out walls or dilapidated ceilings or broken water pipes. The Wagners don’t scare that easy. They know that out of the seemingly chaotic state they’re faced with lies enormous potential just waiting to be worked on and realized. And this is exactly the attitude and lens that they used when they finally decided to foster Lizzie, Juan, and Lita. When most parents looking to foster and adopt would shy away from taking in teenagers (of which Lizzie is), let alone sibling set (of which the three are), the Wagners had the courage to go for it.

Journey with your community

When Pete and Ellie started looking into adoption, they attended a seminar with a group of people who couldn’t be more different than them but at the same time, this motley crew is united with having a singular mindset. Little did the Wagners know that this same group of people would be their constant companions in their journey ahead. This is an important reminder to all of us that in whatever endeavor we decide to take on, creating and having a community or a group of trusted friends with us will ultimately make the long road ahead less tiring, more bearable and more worthwhile.

Connect through a shared experience

Out of the three children, Lizzie’s the one who had built an enormous wall around her. Any attempt of Pete and Ellie to try and connect with her would always end up in a shouting match or utter disobedience. Getting through to Lizzie seemed like a herculean task and it wasn’t until Pete decided to take her with him to work that things started to change. When Pete and Lizzie started smashing and breaking down an old kitchen, Pete could see that he too had broken a significant wall around Lizzie’s heart. This is a great picture of how to genuinely connect with someone who might be very different from you. By sharing the same experience, the bond between gets stronger and walls of self-defense get torn down.

Remember your why

All throughout the film, we witnessed Pete and Ellie go through a lot of difficulties in connecting with the three children. When they think they were making headway in their relationships with the kids or in the process of adopting them, certain circumstances would come their way that would take a toll on their connection to Lizzie, Juan, and Lita. It is during these difficult times that the words of Ellie’s mom ring so true: It’s helpful to remember why you became a parent in the first place. When we’re faced with waves of disappointment and rejection, being reminded of the reason why we’re doing what we’re doing is exactly the push that we need to get us through another day and continue on the path that we have chosen.

Know that even though it’s never easy, it’s always worth it

Karen, the social worker in the movie, said it best when she said, “Things that matter are hard.” That is true for Pete and Ellie. That is true for Lizzie, Juan, and Lita. This is true for you and me. All things that are worth fighting for and losing sleep over are the things that deeply matter. This world never promises to hand those things to us on a silver platter. You and I have to willingly and consciously defend and strive and fight for those things. We have to defend the least, the last and the lost in our society. We have to strive to keep meaningful and life-giving friendships. We have to fight to have our own families. Doing all of these things is difficult. It’s messy, complicated, and demanding. It is inconvenient. But isn’t that what love is—to sacrifice our own selves for the sake of others? We love what God loves. We love our friends. And we love our families. Because all of these things are always, always worth it.

Do you have your own favorite lesson from Instant Family? Let us know because we would love to hear from you!


Instant Family Photos: Paramount Pictures

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