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Donor Unknown

Donor Unknown

By Patrick Samuel • August 12th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 4/5

Release date: July 11th, 2011
Certificate (UK): E
Running time: 80 minutes

Director: Jerry Rothwell
Producer: Al Morrow, Hilary Durman

Cast: Jeffrey Harrison, Jo Ellen Marsh, Rachelle Longest, Danielle Pajano, Fletcher Norris

It’s near impossible for teenagers to connect with their parents. When I was that age it was all about bad moods, stomping around and being embarrassed by them. Just think back to Kevin the Teenager, the character played by Harry Enfield on the Harry Enfield and Chums TV show… but what if you’re a donor-conceived child who actually wants to connect?

Donor Unknown is a fascinating documentary that follows 20-year-old JoEllen Marsh as she tries to find her anonymous donor father. Raised by two mothers in Pennsylvania, she always knew her family ‘wasn’t like other families’.

Donor Unknown

After discovering a unique online registry which connects donor-conceived children, JoEllen found out her father was Donor 150. We then meet Jeffrey Harrison (aka Donor 150). He lives in Venice Beach in a broken down RV with his four dogs and a pigeon.

The former model supplemented his low earning back in the 1980’s by becoming a regular sperm donor and one morning he saw JoEllen’s search for Donor 150 on the front page of the New York Times and knew it was him. Deciding to come forward, he was also surprised to learn just how many children he fathered across the country.

As JoEllen meets her half siblings and they learn more about Jeffrey, not everybody is so thrilled about him. It doesn’t deter JoEllen though, she’s just as anxious to meet him as he is to meet her and we anticipate all the way through how they’re going to receive each other when it finally happens.

Donor Unknown

It’s very interesting to see the siblings connecting and finding out they share similar features and traits; the way their tuck their hair behind their ears or how their eyebrows grow.

Some of them are keen to know what they’ve inherited from Jeffrey as well. His free-spiritedness, philosophies on life and conspiracy theories are all things that surprise them about their new-found dad.

Donor Unknown, at the same time, also highlights issues surrounding the secrecy and shame of being a donor and the need for donor-conceived children to know who their fathers are. In the past it has always been terribly difficult to get information on who donors were but a documentary and story like this one shows it’s not impossible. You just have to be ready for what you might find!

Donor Unknown

It does make for some slightly awkward moments though and there are times when I absolutely cringed and felt bad for Jeffrey who in the end seems like he is really a very well meaning person, it’s just that others tend to regard him as a little too eccentric to be part of their families.

Whether we’re raised by our biological parents, foster parents or guardians, there’s just something innate that makes us want to distance ourselves as children or young adults from those older than us, but it does bring to mind that old saying as well “you can’t choose your family”, which is something I felt some of the adults shown here should have remembered, especially in light of how they regard the unique and eccentric sperm donor.

It’s an unusual topic for a documentary but an important one as it still seems to be something very taboo in our modern society.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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