Karla the human shield

Yesterday (Wednesday) was our first productive shooting day. In effect it was the second, but on day 1 I was only able to get about 10 minutes of (most likely) useless material. Yesterday we witnessed a meeting between Sujeylin and Juan Carlos (Karla’s father) which turned out to be a very interesting scene, and afterwards when I suggested to Sujeylin we go home she said: “No, let’s go the park.”

As regular followers of this story know, the park has now been closed. The group now hangs out in front of its gates, on the sidewalk. And soon after we got there and started filming some of the interaction of Sujeylin’s friends with Karla, a serious fight broke out between two of the women. They were painfully physical with each other for a while, until Sujeylin got up and tried to get in-between them. Having been separated, one of the women looks in her bag for a razor blade and positions it on top of her tongue, threatening the other one by sticking out her tongue repeatedly. At this point the incredible happens: Sujeylin picks up Karla and shoves her in the arms of the other woman (who is one of her better friends), then turns to the razor blade one and starts screaming: “Are you threatening my daughter? Are you hitting the little one??”

Little poor Karla, without knowing it, just turned into a human shield. It surprises me tremendously that Sujeylin would offer her one-year old as protection for a fight in which at least one of the characters is stoned out of her head on glue. But it works. Besides lots of sobbing and some screaming, the physical element of the fight disappears. We stick around for another half hour or so, but when Sujeylin believes the other woman has calmed down sufficiently, she picks up Karla and returns to the relative comfort of her home in the outskirts of the city.

This has been an event I have had to digest. Is she a bad mother? I don’t think so. Is she stupid? Not at all. Would I ever do something like that? Never. So, what am I to make of this? How can I support and believe in a person who puts a baby at risk in this way?

Talking it over this morning with Emily, my U.S. co-producer and currently also sound recordist, I had to remind myself not to judge her. Sujeylin’s complicated personal history have made her who she is, beyond her own fault, and I will never be in a situation where I can sufficiently understand the complexities of her life and the dynamics of her relationships with people (including her own daughter). It’s easily done, and very common to many Westerners all over the globe, but judging from the perspective of a person in the developed world is not only not fair but can never be accurate. I could only ever try to look at Sujeylin’s actions from her point of view, something very hard to do without having lived her life myself, and then I suspect I might come to understand what happened here. But it’s a suspicion, something I feel is out there but hard to grasp. I know it can be explained somehow, but feel incapable of trying to.

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