An interview with Phil Bertelson, an award-winning filmmaker and transracial adoptee.
Phil Bertelsen, age 37, grew up in Highland Park, New Jersey, in the 1970s. An award-winning filmmaker, Bertelsen has wrote and directed Outside Looking In, a documentary examining transracial adoption in America. He currently lives with his wife in Brooklyn, New York.
Tell us a little about your background. Where did you grow up? What was your family like?
I grew up in a family of seven children. While I’m not the youngest, I was the last to arrive to what was an adoptive family with two children from Korea; one Caucasian (my brother left on the stoop of a local church); myself, a biracial African-American; and three children born to my Norwegian parents. We grew up in a relatively diverse, but segregated suburb in central New Jersey. Our family was the only family of color in our part of town. We didn’t come into contact with other children of color until we attended the junior high school across town. We were raised in an environment that did not entertain conversations about three things: race, religion, and money. I’m not entirely sure why, but when those subjects happened to come up, they usually led to an uncomfortable debate. My parents were very Scandinavian in that way. They avoided confrontation at all costs…