Childhood is a phase in which a person absolves, like a sponge, all stimuli from the outside world. It is a period of vulnerability in which take place many of the events that will determine and sculpt the adult life in many ways. Among the various positive or negative aspects of life that have such a permanent effect on any person, one of the most significant might be the social and economic stability. Children don’t choose the environment in which they are born, and their random and arbitrary exposure to the world depends on other people who make those choices for them (at best), or just do what they can to guarantee themselves and those under their care the stability that allows survival.
In Mar del Plata’s 29th International Film Festival this issue was present, in many outstanding and sensitive approaches. In the Colombian film “Gente de bien”, Eric, a boy of ten, has to successively suffer the abandonment of his mother, his father and even of the family that, in a way, had adopted him. Eric is a perfectly healthy boy, but we can see how these traumas affect his personality, making him become more harsh and defensive. On top of that, Eric starts experimenting for the first time in his life the social impact; inserted in a well-off family, he gradually begins to be discriminated and excluded by his peer group. “Gente de bien” is an intelligent way to show the invisible but inescapable phobia installed in the wealthy classes regarding poor, even among those considered solidary and progressive people.
No less impressive, the South Korean movie “Alive” (Sanda) tells a terrible story. The main character has lost his home to a flood, he has been robbed of his wages for his work in construction and, having to cope with the arrival of the freezing winter, he finds job in a soy plantation, in the mountainous province of Gang won. Despite all the efforts made to ensure stability to his niece Ha-na, circumstances exceed him constantly. His sister has serious psychiatric issues, money is tight and making a living is extremely difficult. In an environment of savage exploitation the possibilities of peace or recreation are unthinkable, and the real thorn in this movie is to think how can a girl grow and be formed in a place where competition has gone wild, solidarity among workers is virtually nonexistent and violence is a constant. The piano lessons in which Ha-na takes refuge seem, for the eyes of the skeptical viewer, absolutely insufficient to offset such suffering.
In “Le maraviglie” (Land der Wunder) the environment seems also a bit inhospitable, and four sisters must face a rural life, with a somewhat demented and dominating father who is obsessed with making an autonomous living in a beekeeping venture. Gelsomina, a 12 years old girl, becomes the key figure in the family business, the basic gear that articulates the different parts of the group. But fortunately, there are small signs of defiance, like leaving a question unanswered or disobeying an order, so there seems to be a space for hope.
Set in the midst of the Kurdish-Turkish conflict, “Come To My Voice” (Were Dengê Min) begins with a military raid on a village in eastern Turkey, in which several Kurdish men are kidnapped and imprisoned. From there, we follow the struggle of a little girl in finding her father. With the company of her grandmother she starts a journey with the aim of finding a gun to exchange for her father’s freedom. The curious aspect of the film is that we already know that even if the weapon is found, her father’s release will have nothing to do with it. In this journey, anyway, we can see the real signs of resistance: art, traditions, the hanging on to a language and to an ancestral wisdom. Even in the most inhospitable situations younger generations may be provided with an emotional and cultural support that allows them to nurture and become conscious and attentive human beings. Like in “Le maraviglie”, what comes to our attention is the kind of stimuli that, even in the darkest situations, can save a child.
Edited by Steven Yates
© FIPRESCI 2014