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Rosie Steps Out With Family


Family in all its diversity took center stage at a special screening Tuesday night of the new Rosie O'Donnell documentary for HBO, A Family Is A Family Is A Family: A Rosie O'Donnell Celebration.

The star appeared with her ex, Kelli Carpenter, and their four children to help unveil the film, which showcases the variety of contemporary families.

"We were trying to make as full a palette as we could to really show a cross section of what families are really made up of in today's society," O'Donnell told at the screening, hosted by HBO and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. "We went to a bunch of different schools in New York, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas. We said it was a Rosie O'Donnell film, and the families that said, 'We'd like to participate,' we vetted them on that."

The 40-minute documentary, directed by Amy Schatz, presents various family structures, including same-sex parents, mixed-heritage families, single parents, and stories of adoption. Children largely provide the commentary, which ranges from too cute to poignantly mature.

Four-year-old Maya, who was adopted from China, speaks on-screen about her biological family, for instance.

"They still really loved me, but the policy was only one child allowed so they wanted to get a boy," she says. Of her adoptive parents, she says, "They really actually want me," .

The four children O'Donnell shares with Carpenter also appear in the film, anchored by a sequence featuring the youngest, Vivienne Rose, age 6.

O'Donnell talked about the decision to allow Vivienne Rose and siblings Parker, Chelsea, and Blake to appear in the public eye.

"Before 9/11, I never showed their faces," she said. "It was after 9/11 when I realized you only have one choice in life: faith or fear. I was really working in fear mode -- I was worried somebody would take them or something would happen to them. After 9/11, it was almost like the fear bubble shattered and I realized that I don't have any control, and all you can do is love the people you love and tell people that you do, as truthfully as you can."

The documentary addresses the reality of O'Donnell and Carpenter's separation, which O'Donnell confirmed in an interview late last year.

"Even though Mommy Kelli and I aren't living in the same house anymore, we're still a family," O'Donnell says at the conclusion of the scene with Vivienne Rose. "Family is forever. And family is love."

Geared toward parents and children, the documentary features a soundtrack with music from the likes of Ziggy Marley, Bonnie Raitt, and They Might Be Giants. Animated musical sequences add to the fun, such as a number called "My Science Project is Me," which O'Donnell sings from the perspective of a young girl conceived by in vitro fertilization.

"Don't you wish you started life in a dish like me?" she asks.

A Family Is A Family Is A Family: A Rosie O'Donnell Celebration debuts Sunday, January 31, on HBO.
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Julie Bolcer