Fact number one: Mojoca, one of the NGO’s who had been helping me in preparing the film, has dropped out of the project. Fact number two: Inés is currently staying in a shelter of Mojoca.
(Fact number three: I am somewhat upset and very worried).
This morning I found en email in my inbox signed by the president, the vice-president, the founder and some other guy of Mojoca. Basically they say three things: (1) Inés is with us now, so she’s off the streets and does not fit your requirements anymore; (2) you can harm mother and child by expecting them to live on the streets for a whole year by promising them milk and diapers (for the record: no such promise was made); and (3) being present during the birth, even if you only want to film her face, does not fit the values and culture of street children. Please do not contact us anymore by any means…
What does this all mean?
Mojoca is quite a unique organization ran entirely by ex-street children. It was founded by an Italian guy, Gerard Lutte, who spends most of his time outside of Guatemala. I have known Mojoca for five years now, and visited several times. It was them who put me in touch with Inés, and took me around twice to where she lives (lived) in order to talk to her about the film. They even offered I could remain in touch with her through their email. In short, they supported the project and promised to help out anyway they could. I got on well with them, and felt welcome.
I was getting suspicious when Glenda, the president of what is effectively a cooperative (read: democracy) of young adults, requested I write to Gerard in Italy to “ask permission”. This was way back in July when I was last there. I asked Glenda whether she thought I needed his permission, and she explained that he is like their godfather-adviser-type (my words) and they don’t like to do things he doesn’t approve of. So much for democracy. Considering I don’t think I need permission from anyone else but Inés, I wrote to him on the 15th of July to thank him for the support received so far from his organization, and to offer him a chance to communicate with me about the film and maybe shed some light or give advice. Until this morning, I had not received an answer.
It’s true that Inés has checked into Mojoca. Alberto, our local production coordinator who has spent time with her this week, says it is because of the heavy rains which make it impossible to sleep on the streets. He also said that, despite this morning’s mail, Inés is determined to be part of the film. The Casa Alianza people think that her stay in Mojoca is temporary, because according to them she has started taking more drugs again which could mean she may simply not return to the shelter one of these days. Mojoca however are convinced that she’s in there for the long term. Whatever may be the case, I am equally interested in telling her story.
It seems that our Italian friend Gerard is on one of his Guatemalan trips this week and might have found Inés who is in Mojoca and has been talking about the project – but who can blame her? Whatever the reason for this email to have come today, it is clear that the opposition comes from one person only: Mr. Godfather. Had he not shown up, things may have been ok. Why would he be against a project which could benefit them in so many ways? Does he think he’s the only who can save the street children from their fate? (I don’t think I can, but I am being cynical) Does he feel bypassed? Might he be one of those guys who “knows what’s best for them?” It’s a mystery to me.
I had some time this morning in the car, and spent it thinking about this issue. I came up with a three-step strategy and a list of more than ten reasons why Mojoca has made the wrong decision. Here they are:
Step 1: Damage control. They copied Aprofam, the private clinic which is allowing us to film the birth. They in turn sent the mail on to Claudia from Casa Alianza, and Claudia sent me a reply (they’re with the project for the full 100%). I had to make sure that no damage was done to our relationship with Aprofam, since the first and most vital scene of the film will be shot there. All is good with them.
Step 2: Information gathering. I have been on the phone to Guatemala. I spoke to Alberto (prod. coord.) and asked him his view and opinion, and I also spoke to one Berta, who’s Inés’ greatest confident and works for Mojoca. Alberto is certain Inés is still in, partly because of the fact she can deliver in a private clinic (don’t think this is like delivering in Bell Air or anything like that…). Berta has confided me with the notion that there is some jealousy happening within Mojoca, also because of the private clinic. Tomorrow I will try to call to speak to Inés herself, or at least to Osman, her companion and the father of the child.
Step 3: A long letter to the board of Mojoca. Let’s be fair: despite not needing their permission, I would be very helped by their collaboration. I’d like to film Inés inside their homes, and in general think that everything will be easier if I can get not one but two of the bigger NGO’s on the side of the project (the way things were until fourteen hours ago). This is where my 10+ list of reasons comes in, since I have noticed that they have made a decision based on air. I have not ever explained the project to them in detail, nor have I been able to talk about the working method, the ethical side, the benefits for them in the long-term, etc
All this on the same day I found out that her due date is the 6th of November and not around the 20th of October (a phone call to Iberia Airlines is next), and a day after having been rejected by the European MEDIA Programme for funding… (a totally different issue).
It’s become a long post. My hat off to you if you sat through it. I’m going to work on my letter, so I can send it tomorrow (and ignore their desire to not ever be contacted again…).
Thanks for listening.