look & listen

Arrived!

Just want to say that I have arrived. It remains a long haul… 

Makes me wonder whether we can really make it on time when important things are about to happen. One of my objectives for this first trip is to put in place an infrastructure together with Casa Alianza and the local producer which guarantees that we keep track of the protagonist(s) and are able to be present (i.e. filming) when needed, even if it means someone here has to start while we are on the way. Another thing we really need is for Iberia to colaborate. They have a direct flight MAD-GUA and can really help us in case we need to hop on a plane from one moment to the next, without having to pay 6.000 euros for it… I’ll work on that when I get back to Madrid the 10th.

Anyway, I am staying at Hostal Guatefriends (the first time I stayed in a 4-star hotel and the second with the High Representative of the UN, so everytime is a different experience) and have met a few interesting backpackers already. I just woke up and today is devoted to Casa Alianza, and to making phone calls to plan the rest of the trip.

Was reading the latest version of the Diary of Anne Frank on the way in (recently published extended and complete version), and am wondering what her life would have been like had blogs existed in 1942.

Generations

Something on the generations.

I have read a lot about street children, books and articles, and seen many films and documentaries. There is an abundance of material, too much to get through in a lifetime. But never have I read about the different generations. As far as I can tell, nobody has made the distinction between the 1st and the 2nd generation the way I propose to do. Yet, they represent totally different problems. At least in Guatemala, where the focus of my research has been.

First generation street children tend to escape from home. They are on the run. Often from poverty, or from violence or sexual abuse by a family member. Some of the children come from villages to the city, dreaming of getting a job and being able to send money home to their families. Whatever the cause, often they are at least 5-6 years old, sometimes even older, and have had some education. Many street children can read and write. And all first generation street children have a reference of the family model. They were raised in a home, with a roof over their head, and most likely know their mother, their father, and have brothers and sisters.

Second generation street children are born on the street. Sometimes literally, but often their mother was accepted into hospital for the birth only to be shown the door a few days later. The babies grow up on the street. When they first open their eyes, they see the sky and not a roof. They are raised there, as if they were savages of the city.

The big difference is that: the first generation has a reference of the family model and a home, of which they have escaped for whatever reason. The second generation is not escaping. They have nothing to escape from. Their reference is the street, and all it bring with it. They represent an entirely different pathology, live in a different dynamic, and require a separate form of support, help or even treatment.

As such, we are not only trying to make an interesting documentary, but it will also be a first.

When the idea got me

Not all ideas are “had” (as in: “I have an idea!”) nor do we “get” them. Quite the opposite: important ideas get us, they have us.

Hijos de la Calle (its temporary name in Spanish) is a feature length documentary film about second generation street children: those whose parents are street children themselves, those who are raised in the streets from the first day of their lives.

Knowing I wanted to do something in Guatemala with street children, the idea got me in Brussels in the summer of 2003. As I was leaving the metro one day to go and see my co-producer on another documentary project, I saw a begging Gypsy woman seated with a baby in her lap. Not quite the same thing (Gypsies tend to have homes, the mother was no child, and Brussels is not Guatemala City) but the trigger was right there. I thought a lot about the baby, spending her days in her mother’s lap in the street, begging.

The idea followed me around. Got (to) me.

An old and very respected Danish documentary maker once told me that it is unprofessional to compare with my own children, and to use my fatherhood is not a good enough excuse to explain my reasons for wanting to make the film. But that’s what happened when the idea got me: our oldest daughter was 4 at the time, and my “having-a-baby” memories were still fresh. The begging baby. Free of prejudice, had they known each other, my daughter was that baby’s equal on all accounts. Until reality gets to them?

Why is life organized in a way that some are forced to go and beg with their mothers, while others get to play and learn in a protected environment of relative luxury? A basic question, asked by many and often.

With this film I want to show that it is possible to violate the rights of a child even before it is born. That despite Guatemala having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is doing little to protect their minors. I want to do this by following, during a whole year, a baby and its mother: from the day of the birth until his/her first birthday. The mother and her unborn baby live in Guatemala City, on the streets. And I am about to find out who they are…