Future People: The Family Of Donor 5114


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Future People: The Family Of Donor 5114
"Future People is packed full of great moments and interesting people."

Due to the increased use of genetic profiling, more and more people today are discovering that their parents aren't who they thought they were. For the children of Donor 5114, the situation is a little different. Most of them have grown up knowing the men raising them - where such men existed - were not their biological fathers. Others have it explained to them when they're in their teens. What they're less prepared for is the adjacent discovery that they have literally dozens of siblings.

There are 21 known siblings in this story when it begins - a number that grows. For those raised as only children, even adjusting to one surprise relative can be a lot, so going on social media and discovering a huge, hitherto unknown family looking to each other and saying "Hey guys, it's another one!" is quite something. Not all of them choose to appear in Michael Rothman's documentary but most do, and even though there isn't time to get to know all of them in a single film, we get a strong sense of the unit that they form, a family emerging by accident and by choice and one which, increasingly, comes to be bonded by love.

The first thing you'll notice about these kids, as they stand around reflecting on how they wish they knew what their biological father looked like, is how alike they are. Most of them have very similar noses, full lips, wide smiles. It turns out that a lot of them enjoy track sports; the combination of muscular legs with a lighter upper body is particularly noticeable on the girls, even when they don't. This makes for a fascinating casual study of the impact of genetics. They also demonstrate similar personality traits. Perhaps another group of siblings wouldn't have come together in this way. They all seem strongly empathic, kind and interested in other people.

Naturally, some personalities are stronger than others, and these are the kids whom Rothman elects to follow over a period of six years, during which they have a lot of growing to do. He also spends time with some of their parents. Single mothers and women in same-sex relationships discuss how they decided to take the plunge into parenthood and what it has meant to them. One couple decide to have a new baby - the last offspring of Donor 5114 - during the filming period. We see how this affects their existing children, and how other families wrestle with the impact of the kids getting to know about their wider family. There's a particularly touching reflection on the relationship between one teenage girl and a stepfather who confesses that he doesn't tend to express much emotion, gradually figuring out the depth of feeling that they have for each other.

Some of the families struggle with kids who are at an age where they will naturally start to break away anyway feeling drawn to spend time elsewhere with their new siblings. Others are overjoyed to go from being small, isolated units to feeling like part of huge, extended family. Close bonds develop between some of the mothers as they laugh about the social dynamics of having become pregnant by the same man. Meanwhile, as some of the kids reach 18, efforts to get in touch with the mysterious donor begin. Who is he? Will he want to speak to them at all? Will he want to be involved in the film?

Though the pacing sometimes feels a bit uneven and some scenes are repetitive, Future People is packed full of great moments and interesting people. The tremendous joy that many of its participants have found in discovering each other just keeps growing stronger. By the end of it you'll be wishing that you could uncover a surprise 20+ siblings of your own.

Reviewed on: 09 Apr 2021
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Future People: The Family Of Donor 5114 packshot
A documentary following a group of adolescents who discover that they were conceived from the same sperm donor.

Director: Michael Rothman

Writer: Michael Rothman

Year: 2021

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: US


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