Who Are the DeBolts? And Where Did They Get 19 Kids? (1977)
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The title is Who Are the DeBolts and Where Did They Get Nineteen Children?; that's pretty much the plot and subject of this documentary. This is the second film I've seen recently that features an extraordinarily large family partially composed of disabled or sick children. But whereas My Own Flesh and Blood is more critical and there is a menacing force in the family, director John Korty is unabashedly supportive of the DeBolts. These are people put up for celebration, and it surprises me that the Academy rewarded such a myopic view of a subject. My only guess is that in 1977 the idea of interracial family, composed partially of Vietnamese children who were victims of the war, struck a liberal, multicultural chord with voters. And it does today. The open-mindedness of the elder DeBolts is a worthy virtue, and it is a mark of achievement that race relations have come so far that their actions aren't worth comment in some circles. But I'm nonetheless forced to wonder if such a mass of responsibility as nineteen kids is bound to present doesn't cause some needs to be neglected, which is a subject elided from the film. The only tangential mention of this issue is a quick comment by Mrs. DeBolt who states that having nineteen kids allows her to focus more on the big issues rather than "sweating the small stuff." But for many children, the small stuff is pretty big. Overall, this is a narrow, myopic celebration of a family, and if you like being told whom you should celebrate, then pick it up.
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