My Name Is Faith: Slamdance Review

My Name is Faith H
Uneven technique can’t obscure the message of hope shining through this DIY doc.

Kids suffering from neglect and abuse learn to find hope with foster and adoptive families through a unique parenting program.

PARK CITY – Narratively erratic, visually raw, and often dauntingly personal, My Name Is Faith chronicles a girl’s emotional and psychological struggle to overcome the abuse she suffered as a young child and find acceptance with her adoptive family. Winner of Slamdance’s Feature Documentary Audience Award, the film will be of special interest primarily for families facing similar challenges. Continued fest circulation as well as limited digital or home-entertainment exposure will be its best bets for further recognition.

When first introduced on camera, 10-year-old Faith (who was born Brianna) is in the care of Texas adoptive parents Jason and Tiffany Junker (the film’s co-director) after being removed from her drug-addicted, abusive birth mother by child protective services, along with her younger brother, also adopted by the Junkers. Described as suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder, she’s angry, disruptive and abusive with adults and children alike.

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After a stint at a Canadian “therapeutic parenting” camp with other families learning to cope with kids suffering from similar traumas, the Junkers establish a likeminded program called Camp Connect to share their skills and experience with other parents, as well as continue Faith’s emotional reintegration. The majority of the film documents the often harrowing psychological roller coaster experienced by children and parents at the camp trying to develop strategies to deal with frequently overwhelming emotions.

Junker acknowledges that she didn't set out to make a documentary about her family’s experience, but with the help of filmmakers Jason Banker and Jorge Torres-Torres the project came together. Foregrounding a DIY visual style that might be described as haphazard, the filmmakers are able to compensate for inconsistent lighting, muddled (and subtitled) audio, unstable camerawork and choppy editing with unfettered access to the Junkers and other families with kids recovering from neglect and abuse.

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Despite limited perspective from career mental health professionals, the film clearly conveys the urgency and resourcefulness of kids and adults fending for themselves to address a common affliction. Young Faith in particular comes across as a wounded child determined to forge sustainable bonds with her adoptive parents. Articulate, feisty and often funny, she’s the inadvertent star of this real-life drama.

Venue: Slamdance Film Festival, Documentary Feature Competition
Production company: Undercurrent Films
Directors: Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres, Tiffany Sudela-Junker
Producers: Tiffany Sudela-Junker, Jason Banker, Jorge Torres-Torres
Executive Producer: Adrian Grenier
Director of photography: Jason Banker
Editor: Jorge Torres-Torres
No rating, 80 minutes