SPOTLIGHT FILMS: Oranges and Sunshine

By Contributor
April 22nd, 2012

They were called “home children.” They were kids shipped from England to South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Canada in the early days of the colonies. In 1869, Annie McPherson gave a name to the already old practice by founding the “Child Migration Scheme.”

It was a general belief, and the children were deceived into believing, that the parents were dead, when, in fact, many of the children had been left in care homes by their parents, often too poor to look after them. Some of the parents believed they had been adopted in England.

Many of the children were subjected to various forms of abuse and were not allowed to mingle with the children of the countries of forced adoption. They were often denied shelter and an education causing some to flee to more caring families. 

The practice continued until 1987 when Margaret Humphreys, a British social worker carried out an investigation leading to exposure of the scheme. In 1994 Humphreys published a book concerning her research entitled Empty Cradles.

On Tuesday, Apr. 24 Spotlight Films will be presenting Oranges and Sunshine, a film directed by Jim Loach and based on the work of Humphreys which includes her attempt to reunite the children with family in England.

Emily Watson (War Horse, Gosford Park, Angela’s Ashes) gives a multilayered performance in her portrayal of Humphreys who, despite threats of violence against her family, dedicates herself too exposing the injustice. Backing Watson up onscreen are Hugo Weaving (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), Tara Morice (Strictly Ballroom), and David Wenham (The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).

Oranges and Sunshine will be shown at 7:30 p.m. at the Gem Theatre in Grand Forks.

Post Script:Britain and Australia offered an official apology to the “home children” while Canada’s Jason Kenney issued a statement that Canada will not apologize. Canada did, however, issue a commemorative stamp to honour the Home Children.