M-WHS junior shares best friend’s story in documentary

Central Valley. Sofia Bevacqua’s film about the adoption of Jaelyn Staiano, ‘Choosing Love Above All Else,’ selected for the All American High School Film Festival.

30 Nov 2020 | 02:50

Sofia Bevacqua, a junior at Monroe-Woodbury High School, had her documentary film, “Choosing Love Above All Else: An Adoption Story,” selected for the All American High School Film Festival, the world’s largest student film festival.

Sofia’s intimate and heart-warming documentary tells the adoption story of her longtime friend and fellow Monroe-Woodbury High School, Jaelyn Staiano.

Sofia’s perspective

I had met Jaelyn in preschool. Her mom was one of the teachers and our families connected. We have been best friends ever since. Jaelyn was adopted and I began developing this idea for a documentary to showcase the adoption process.

My neighbor, Tom Oliva, is one of the founders of the All American High School Film Festival. We had told him about my interest in film and he told me to visit the festival. After that amazing experience, we sat down that summer and watched and reviewed many documentaries that had been submitted in the past to help me develop my own.

Tom helped with the story development and how to properly portray what I wanted to be told. The challenge was how to get the documentary together all by myself. When you are a student filmmaker, most times you make up your own production team. I had to figure out the cameras, lighting, sound, editing and all the elements that go into making a film.

I knew I wanted the documentary to be seen, and the All American High School Film Festival was the perfect opportunity. My documentary was accepted into the festival and played during one of the many screenings.

Jaelyn’s perspective

Sofia and I met in preschool. In time, Sofia and I became the best of friends. Growing up, we confided in each other about almost anything.

Since the beginning of our friendship, Sofia has given me nothing but support about my adoption, whether or not she knew the magnitude of it.

Being adopted, I gained many insights at an early age. There were difficulties I had to overcome. People made offensive comments, asked uncomfortable questions, or looked at me differently.

I learned how those types of ignorant remarks would certainly occur throughout my life, yet I never felt any burden toward my adoption. In response, I emerged with fortitude and aspiration.

Back in the summer of 2019, Sofia had first asked me to help her create the documentary. We filmed a basic model of what the documentary would be. We went into production this year. Our biggest roadblock happened to be COVID-19.

Eventually, we found a way to safely and successfully bring this documentary into existence. I had a great time working with Sofia to reach her goals.

When Sofia asked me to make this documentary, I was humbled to voice my narrative. It was quite moving, being able to turn this beautiful aspect of my life into a story for my friend.

Making this documentary not only tells the accounts of my adoption, but the strength of our friendship. I do not find it simple to be open-ended about my emotions, especially my adoption, with merely anyone. It takes a meaningful level of trust to put my personal story out into the world.

I was inspired to speak of my adoption, which is the reason why I was able to start my great friendship with Sofia.