look & listen

Last day’s thoughts

Something funny is going on here. After spending a week roaming the streets of this city, and meeting with the NGO’s, I am starting to think that these organizations are keeping the children on the streets! There are so many NGO’s working with children, and since the evangelization of this country (many catholics are turning hard-core protestants), the churches have also gotten involved. Children who sleep in the street know that organization 1 will bring breakfast by 9.30AM, then number 2 will take them out to bake cakes at 10AM (lunch included), number 3 may come along around 1PM to hand out condoms (Casa Alianza alone hands out 190.000 condoms a year), and then dinner is served at such and such shelter…

Ok, I am being facetious. But these children and teenagers are being catered to in a way that there’s no incentive to get off the streets. It’s the perfect combination: the ultimate freedom (the very reason many are not able to hold out very long in the rule-ridden shelters), they can come and go when they want, take whatever substance they feel like, and no one will tell them what to do when, and on the other hand a constant flow of basic necessities.

I was surprised to find out that my newly found friend Ines takes computer classes once a week. Yet, she sleeps in the open air on a lice-infested dirty mattress under the canopy of a motorcycle-shop. The MOJOCA people told me she could write emails to me if I wanted (at their day facility) to tell me first hand how the pregnancy is coming along.

I am having a hard time comprehending some of this.

Anyway, I went out on the streets today with Casa Alianza. They wanted to present me to yet another pregnant young woman, but we couldn’t find her. I have come to the conclusion however that deciding on the second option for the film, can wait until the last moment. I know who’s out there and when they are supposed to give birth. That feels like it’s enough for now.

Right, am off back to Spain tomorrow on another one of those long flights. But this blog has only just started. I’ll keep writing on developments on production, financing and the start of the shoot, which I think will be on the 15th of October, all the way to the premiere in 2010. So stay tuned.

A few pictures

One more thing – a few pictures from today (click to enlarge):

The girl left of me is La Chispa, whom I mentioned a few posts back. She is four months pregnant. It’s her second child. Her first one was taken from her, most likely by Social Services. Like the others in the pictures, she lives in the group with Ines.

Notice how I am holding onto my bag as if my life depends on it?  🙂

The big challenge

Today I went back to see Ines to talk to her some more. Alberto came along with me – the Spanish producer who has lived here for 8 years – so he could meet her. It’s him and the people from MOJOCA that have to keep in touch with her, and report back on how things are going.

Even though I am very happy to have found what seems to be a perfect character for the film, there are still a few very fragile elements to it. One is that, to date, I don’t really have an alternative. What if Ines decides to leave the street and move back in with her father? What if she decides to move to one of the shelters? Again: better for her probably, but not good for the film.

Another issue is the date of the birth. She told me that the doctor said it would happen between 15 Oct and 5 Nov. That seems a pretty wide date range, but Ines is a moderate drug user and the birth of her child may well come sooner.

One great thing we spoke about today is that she wants to go and present the baby to her father whom she hasn’t seen in 1,5 years, and in the seven years she’s been on the street only a few times. I told her we could go together, an idea she seemed to like. A reunion of father and daughter would make a terrific scene in the film. That is, if her father still lives in the city. Last the MOJOCA people heard he was planning on moving to El Salvador.

This film is going to be full of surprises. When we made The Endless Caravan, I also researched for a long time and then wrote a pretty elaborate script. The film turned out 95% like the script! In this case, I doubt we will be able to plan much. Things change from one moment to the next, and flexibility and adaptability are key words here. It is the way I have approached this third visit to Guatemala, and it seems to have worked…

In other news, considering tomorrow is my last day here, I went out to buy some presents for my three girls. Ah yes, and yesterday I met the composer, which was a very good meeting as well. He may be the right guy. Am still listening to some CD’s he gave me.

A thought: Roberto, the owner of the local production company, invited Alberto and myself to a pretty hefty sushi-session for lunch. Right after that, the visit with Ines and her group took place. The sushi was still swimming in my belly and leaving me with that distinct feeling of a truly unequal world. No doubt we could have fed the whole 10-headed group of street kids for a few days with what we spent on the sushi for the three of us. But what’s it gonna be? Dried noodles in an old paint can, or sushi, for everyone???

A short trailer

I used my quiet, rainy and lazy Sunday to cut together some of the images Ines allowed me to shoot of her. Have a look and a listen:

 

Meet Ines

I am elated! Yesterday someone from MOJOCA introduced me to Inés Gomez, a 19-year old pregnant woman who would make a perfect protagonist for the film. And even better, she seems interested in the project and willing to cooperate.

I shot some video of her group, and I’ll try to post some later today. But for now, here’s a picture:

New hope

After having tried for weeks, from Madrid and also from here, I have finally reached MOJOCA, another NGO which works with street children. Works out that the phone number and address I had were of a building which they are renovating, and on the door was a photocopy with a new address and phone number. So I just went there unannounced, and as with everyone in this country, they received me with open arms (no doubt that’s less related to me and more related to the way people are here).

MOJOCA (Movimiento de Jovenes de la Calle) wasn’t very big when I was last here in November 2003, but has grown out to be one of the key organizations on the subject. They used to just offer daycare – a place where one could go and bake a cake or do something else creative, get a haircut and a medical check-up – but they now have various shelters throughout the city. Funny thing is that there seems to be a sense of informal  competition between Casa Alianza and MOJOCA. As a general rule, one doesn’t really work with children from the other and vice versa. Strange eh?

In view of the little time I have left, MOJOCA offered to take me out later on today, in spite of it being Saturday, to meet two new pregnant girls. When I explained what I was looking for, they thought they could really fit the bill. That remains to be seen, but having renewed access to new people, especially to one called Chispa (= Spark), gives me new hope that I will leave here with a few important choices made.

For the rest yesterday (Friday) was very productive. The ambassador was extremely nice, and gave me several local contacts I could talk to. His background is human rights (he used to work with Amnesty International) and was really interested in the project. He also set me up with another person from the embassy who knew a lot more about safety issues and the police, and even personally escorted me to see someone in the Spanish office on the 4th floor with whom it had been hard to get in touch with (people from the AECID, who after all are paying for my trip). I also met with Save the Children, had a take-away wok lunch in a shopping centre, and a great evening with my former hostal guests sitting around drinking beers after dinner. All in all, a productive day.