When the idea got me

Not all ideas are “had” (as in: “I have an idea!”) nor do we “get” them. Quite the opposite: important ideas get us, they have us.

Hijos de la Calle (its temporary name in Spanish) is a feature length documentary film about second generation street children: those whose parents are street children themselves, those who are raised in the streets from the first day of their lives.

Knowing I wanted to do something in Guatemala with street children, the idea got me in Brussels in the summer of 2003. As I was leaving the metro one day to go and see my co-producer on another documentary project, I saw a begging Gypsy woman seated with a baby in her lap. Not quite the same thing (Gypsies tend to have homes, the mother was no child, and Brussels is not Guatemala City) but the trigger was right there. I thought a lot about the baby, spending her days in her mother’s lap in the street, begging.

The idea followed me around. Got (to) me.

An old and very respected Danish documentary maker once told me that it is unprofessional to compare with my own children, and to use my fatherhood is not a good enough excuse to explain my reasons for wanting to make the film. But that’s what happened when the idea got me: our oldest daughter was 4 at the time, and my “having-a-baby” memories were still fresh. The begging baby. Free of prejudice, had they known each other, my daughter was that baby’s equal on all accounts. Until reality gets to them?

Why is life organized in a way that some are forced to go and beg with their mothers, while others get to play and learn in a protected environment of relative luxury? A basic question, asked by many and often.

With this film I want to show that it is possible to violate the rights of a child even before it is born. That despite Guatemala having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is doing little to protect their minors. I want to do this by following, during a whole year, a baby and its mother: from the day of the birth until his/her first birthday. The mother and her unborn baby live in Guatemala City, on the streets. And I am about to find out who they are…

One thought on “When the idea got me

  1. Dear Koen,

    First of all thank you for dedicating your time and resources to highlight the plight of street children and in particular children born to children on the street.

    Casa Alianza UK represents CA in the UK and you can see our work on the UK web site .

    We would very much like to utlilse some of you images on our website and would credit you accordingly

    Look forward to hearing from you

    With thanks and best wishes

    Fred Shortland


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