Back from Nicaragua

(I have recently edited this post to respect Sujeylin’s privacy)

All twelve hours of the flight home does Sujeylin’s voice resonate in my head. She is one of the (new) prospective protagonists for the film, and yesterday was my third and last visit with her. A visit which I expected was going to be quite fun (she’s witty) and an opportunity to pull out the video camera and shoot some much needed footage of her.

Instead, she sat me down and told me she was terribly depressed that day. Tears were flowing down her cheeks.

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing. I also saw her a day earlier, in the little green yet garbage infested park on the edge of the Mercado Oriental, the American continent’s largest market in Managua. For this trip I had planned to try to do as many visits as possible, so that the women I might find for the film would get used to me and I could start building some trust. One of the things I had told her was not to be afraid to raise any issue with me, to feel that she could talk to me and ask any question she had. I was talking about the film obviously…

So yesterday I walked into their shared space, and she came up to me immediately. Big smile. Putting her arm around my waist, I ask how she is. As we walk out of earshot of the group, she looks at me and says: “bad.” So we sit down.

That morning she had a big fight with her partner Juan Carlos. He also lives there, and is the father of the baby she carries.

Sujeylin is very tired of it all. Today, she hates her life. She wants to get off the streets but knows that she’ll have to kick the glue first. The only reason she remains optimistic is for her children: the girl she had when she was 16 and who lives with her mother in a small village, and the one she is expecting. Her tears are flowing freely and I notice how some dirt under her eyes smears around her cheeks. I can hardly understand her, between the strong Nicaraguan accent and her sobbing. But she repeats things three or four times, so I get the picture.

Here’s the part where I don’t know what I’m doing: She’s obviously asking me for help. Advice, probably. I tell her I am not a Casa Alianza street worker (the people who introduced me to her) nor am I with Inhijambia (an ONG she hangs out a lot, and is hoping to seek refuge with at some point). They could take her in, or help her kick the glue. I am a filmmaker. She blinks and says: “I am telling you this because yesterday you told me I could talk to you about anything I wanted.” I am flabergasted, obviously taken aback by this surprising twist.

So I offer her my advice, for what it’s worth. “Be selfish, think about yourself. If the thing with Juan Carlos doesn’t work, just take off. Check into some place somewhere, and take care of yourself and the baby you are expecting.” Something like that.

In all honesty, she’s no good to me if she’s not on the streets!! It’s hard to think that way, and contradictory, but my film is about babies who are raised on the streets… Getting shelter is good for her, but bad for the film. But I won’t tell her that.

There’s this girl who came with me on the visit this time around, Morena. She’s local and I recruited her to continue working on research while I’m gone. She asked me later what the little chat was all about, and why I didn’t get some footage. “What do you expect me to do?” I ask her. “Oh, she’s crying. Quick, the camera!!” I’m not always sure whether I’m qualified to be a filmmaker. Maybe I should dedicate myself to social work…

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