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When filmmaker Karen Skloss got pregnant at the age of 23, she decided to have and keep the baby — even when it became clear that her relationship with the baby’s father wouldn’t work out. She had no idea that it would be so easy to alter her life in one stroke.

Filmmaker Karen Skloss with her daughter Jasmine on her lap. Jasmine is holding a stuffed bunny.

In SUNSHINE, Skloss explores the meaning of family through a personal journey to understand both the legacy of her own birth and the non-traditional family she created by co-parenting with her ex-boyfriend. Young, pregnant, single, and unprepared, Skloss struggles with the fact that sometimes, the most strenuous efforts to protect the idea of family can actually do the most to pull families apart.

Skloss’s pregnancy was, in a way, a case of history repeating itself. As a pregnant teenager, Skloss’s biological mother, the mayor’s daughter in a small Texas town, hushed herself away in a Catholic home for unwed mothers before giving Skloss up for adoption in 1975. She went on to lead a relatively normal life — finishing college, getting married, and having several other children. Few people, other than her new husband, had any idea what had happened. But that was more than Skloss knew for many, many years.

As she reconnects with her biological mother in SUNSHINE, Skloss also contemplates her relationship with her own daughter, Jasmine. “Though the meaning of family today is stretched ever farther, there is still plenty of struggle and at times, a nagging shame in being a single parent,” Skloss says. “A large part of my difficulty lay in the realization that I’d become one of ‘those’ people, who will never have a ‘normal’ family. My birthmother says she feared the shame that situation would have created for me.”

Woven together from more than 10 years’ worth of home movies, intimate family interviews, shimmering dance sequences, and stylized reenactments, SUNSHINE is a refreshing and compelling self-portrait of an adopted woman driven to search for her pride and identity while reconnecting with her biological mother.


In March 2010, filmmaker Karen Skloss provided an update on what some of the people featured in SUNSHINE have been doing since filming ended:

Jasmine is a fourth grader now. She's taking piano and voice lessons, and making straight As. I met an amazing guy and fell head over heels. (Perhaps my days as a single mom are limited.) Jeremy also met a really cool woman, and they are pretty serious. Our family has changed a lot since we finished the film. My parents are all still pretty much the same…

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