The nature versus nurture question has fascinated people for years, and Donor Unknown is a new documentary directed by Jerry Rothwell that explores it further. Donor just won the best feature award at the Tribeca (Online) Film Festival.
In the film, 20-year-old JoEllen Marsh had never met her dad. He was known to her only as sperm donor No. 150 of Los Angeles’ Cryobank. Marsh turned to a website called the Donor Sibling Registry and learned that she had more than a dozen half siblings. She discovered that they shared similar personality and physical traits, including their high foreheads; love of animals; outgoing, analytical personalities; and similar senses of humor.
After reading a newspaper account of Marsh’s search for her father, donor 150 decided to reveal himself. He turned out to be self-described Venice beach bum Jeffery Harrison, who lived in an RV and supported himself in the 1980s and 1990s by making three or four sperm donations a week at $50 a pop. Marsh and Harrison ultimately met. Donor chronicles Marsh's search for her biological heritage.
The documentary raises fascinating questions. How many biological children does Harrison actually have? Should sperm and egg donation be regulated to prevent inadvertent incest between offspring? More significantly, how much of who we are can we never change because it's locked into our genetic code?
There’s no word as to when Donor Unknown will play in Venice, but keep an eye open for it.