HomeAsian AmericansComputer Graphics Artist Amanda Sparso on Her Film Yuanfen and Chinese Adoption

Computer Graphics Artist Amanda Sparso on Her Film Yuanfen and Chinese Adoption

By Calla Carter
AsAmNews Intern

Yuanfen, a “heartwarming tale of adoption as seen through a child’s eyes,” is also a story inspired by the real life experience of its creator, Amanda Sparso.

The film tells the story of a young girl who travels from her birthmother’s arms in China to those of her adoptive parents-to-be in the United States. It has received numerous honors, including the Autodesk Rookies Excellence Award, LA Cinefest Semi-Finalist, and PSIAF Official Selection.

Yuanfen was directed by none other than a computer graphics artist who was adopted from China herself. Amanda Sparso, who produced the film as her thesis at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, talked to AsAmNews about her experience as a Chinese adoptee, an artist, and a storyteller.

Adopted from Guangzhou, China at six months, Sparso was raised in Connecticut. From an early age, her parents integrated her identity as an adoptee into her life, from reading children’s bedtime stories about adoption to celebrating her “Gotcha Day,” the anniversary of the day she was adopted. Sparso told AsAmNews, “My story of adoption has always been one that I was aware of since I could remember.”

Sparso was immersed in performing arts from a young age, training pre-professionally with American Ballet Theatre and Gelsey Kirkland Academy. Toward the end of high school, like many college-bound students, Sparso struggled with how to transform her interest into a career. “While all of my friends were choosing schools with the best nursing and law school programs,” she recalls, “my heart had and always will belong to performing and creating art.”

In computer graphics, Sparso found a field that “combines storytelling and artistic creativity with the technicalities of math and science.” In her senior year of college, she found a way to bridge her newfound creative and technological outlet with her own story.

Yuanfen was a story that I’ve had in mind since I was in high school,” Sparso says. Each adoptee comes to terms with their adoption in different ways. Sparso reflects that her experience has always resonated positively with her. She believes that “my birth parents took a huge risk and sacrifice to give me a better life, thus why I owe it to them to live the best life here that I possibly can.”

Having a story and sharing it are two very different things. Sparso says, “It took a team of thirty artists from all different stages of the pipeline, and a little over ten months to complete the final film.”

The film’s title, Yuanfen (pronounced “Yen-Fen”) reflects the Chinese belief that one’s affinity to another person is predestined through fate, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. Sparso connects this idea to the way circumstances have affected her own life.

“After traveling 7,000 miles to be where I am today, I wanted to use my own story as a way of raising more awareness for adoption and connecting with other children and families who have gone through the process.” When she first set out to create the film, she hoped to “give adopted children the opportunity to see their story represented on screen in a positive light.”

Since the film’s release, Sparso has done just that. Several organizations and online communities for Chinese adoptees and their families have invited her to guest chats, allowing other adoptees to not only see themselves in the media, but as people empowered to define the media’s representation of adoption.

Today, Sparso works as a freelance artist for several animation houses in New York City. You can learn more about her and her work at her website.

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