Karla’s birthday was as much a blast as it was a crucial moment in the film. Lots of children showed up, from all corners of the neighborhood. Sujeylin and Felix ended up buying two piñatas, and the first activity of the day was to take turns hitting those with a stick to release the enclosed candy. Obviously not after first having made a picture of them with the birthday girl.
The photographer who showed up was actually pretty funny, an older guy, somewhat grumpy, who, with a pretty historical looking camera, took exactly one picture of each pose so as to save film. In total three pictures were taken by him.
I’m side tracking. While the kids were releasing their muscles on the piñatas, more often than not creating some near-misses in the crowded garden, food was handed out as well as little bags with candy. Over this, eighties music was blaring at full volume (Nicas love noise to a point where it becomes painful for my ears, let alone for all the children present). But the best part was the cake and the singing. Karla was handed a knife, which she was to hold halfway in the colourful birthday cake, while all the kids sang a song I had never heard of before. I thought it was going to be cumpleaños feliz, like in Spain, but that isn’t quite the universal song I thought it was.
Surely not a tradition I suppose, but right after this event Sujeylin got a real kick out of painting Karla’s face with some of the cake’s colored cream. I had not seen her laugh so loud in the entire 18 months that I have known her.
All in all, it was a fun day and a great scene to end the film on. It made me think back a lot to the birth, a year ago today, and everything that has happened in-between. Sujeylin really lived up to the expectation I had of this story, in which a young homeless mother finds the strength to get off the streets, kick the glue, and improve her quality of life simply for the sake of a child. Often these are teenagers with such low self-esteem that it’s not worth the effort to do that for themselves only, but as soon as a human being more important than their own person appears in their lives, something clicks.
Sadly enough, and as you will learn from the film, Sujeylin is an exception rather than a rule. Many girls never make it as far as she has been able to get in just a year’s time. Their children are taken from them by social services, or brought to family (as Sujeylin did with Nasly, her first child), and they themselves continue on the streets, drugging themselves to beat hunger, cold and misery, making money begging, stealing or with their bodies. The cause? Broken families, poverty at home, abuse by a stepfather or -brother, early child trauma, and in general a lack of education and overall life skills which enable them to know which direction the end of the tunnel might be.
The world over, we’re talking millions of children and teens here. The female population might deliver a child every two years or so. A child, which might be so lucky never to live with her mother. Or a child, which might be even luckier, and to have a mother like Sujeylin who makes sacrifices everyday in order to keep Karla fed and under a roof. My hat off to her.