The discovery of a legacy of half-siblings could be the springboard for the best-selling novel by Jodi Picout. Yet such a story is “Future People: Family of Donor 5114,” a documentary (Streaming on Discovery +) In which dozens of children across the country learn that they were conceived using the same sperm donor.
Siblings, many of whom came up once New York Times Magazine Photo Essay, Found each other online. As children and hunters, they began messaging and video-chatting, comparing physical traits, hobbies, and family structures. Many shared full lips. Some played football or played track. Eventually, they started arranging group visits, where children, often with their mothers, could roam individually.
Director Michael Rothman films the siblings over eight years, chronicleing their evolving union to meet periodically. He focuses on a select few, including the eldest of the group, on whose 18th birthday, for the first time anyone can request contact with their mysterious shared donor.
But these profiles of children, based on casual interviews and footage at home, sometimes feel surface-level. Subjects may seem remote, and tend to default to frugality or cliche expressions, especially in their trying teenage years. Rothman does not investigate or engage with this strangeness, nor does he include his own interview questions in the film. Their camera becomes an outsider – it is less comfortable to understand than a blocker.
More revealing are the self-recorded sequences by siblings on their computers, where they speak clearly and transmit emotions. Sharp insights also come from their mothers, many of whom are in single parent or homosexual partnerships. Although “Future People” struggles to break through children, a fascinating family portrait is of a group clustered by biology – but bonded by a singular shared experience.
People of the future: the family of the donor 5114
Not rated. Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Look at Discovery +.