Raising children in didactic game

Communist regime outlawed birth control and abortion in a disastrously short-sighted attempt to bolster Romania’s flagging labor force. Communists fell and the country’s economy collapsed, Romania became home to thousands of dispossessed and unwanted children. Romanian street children in Bucharest’s Piata Victoriei train station. Almost without exception they raising children in didactic game drugs, especially the inhalant Aurolac, a cheap, toxic paint that coats their faces in silver.

Film Forum in New York City, was produced with no soundtrack, no graphics, and no digital effects. Absent is the sexy charm of delinquency so common to fiction film. It is cinema verite at its most blunt and unforgiving, and it is heartbreaking. People who had seen rough cuts often said to me, you can’t show this. People will not be able to handle it. People often suggested I take out the violent scenes, and that was something I was extremely opposed to. Could you talk about the sorts of reactions you’ve gotten?

People are generally very moved, sometimes moved to tears, sometimes are angry. The response has been very strong. Often people are very disturbed by the children being abused, and the violence that is shown, and sometimes what they feel during the film, rather than it being directed towards the issue or the children or the film, it’s sometimes directed towards me. But I have to say, more often the response has been really positive to the film. W: Angry because you didn’t intervene? Belzberg: The biggest question people have after watching this film is why the filmmaker did not intervene.

W: What do you tell them? Belzberg: Basically, I tell them what is shown in the film is a fraction of what actually takes place. That what you see in the film doesn’t even compare to what the children endure on a daily basis. A child could be beaten as many as four or five times a day by a passerby, a shopkeeper, another street kid, and so I really felt that it was my responsibility to show the reality of the situation and to really focus on long term goals rather than short term solutions. W: Talk about the idea of filmmaking, particularly documentary filmmaking, as having a purpose. Belzberg: The purpose might be to show another world, to go places where society usually doesn’t go. And then, something I did want to avoid was for the film to be in any way didactic.

I wanted people to see through the children’s eyes, I wanted to tell the children’s story. W: Do you feel like your film has become a participant in the discussion on street children? Hopefully the film will be shown at different conferences, and it’s being used by the World Health Organization now, and it’s also being used by Brown University in their public health courses, so there are institutions which are using the film to instigate discussion and to help talk about the issue. So it is slowly being used as a tool for education, and as a tool by these institutions, and I hope it will continue to be. W: Maybe we could talk about distribution a little bit.

Belzberg: That’s right, on Cinemax, in the spring. W: Do you have an educational distributor? People are contacting us, so we make the tape available. We’re making it available probably cheaper than an educational distributor would, which is fine, but hopefully we’ll be able to get an educational distributor as well. W: Did you find it difficult getting your distribution, or did Sundance help it take off? Belzberg: Actually, HBO came in before Sundance. I had run out of money.

The Soros Foundation was really the reason why this film was able to be made, and then at a certain point I ran out of money, and HBO stepped in, which is great, and I was able to finish the film and get in to Sundance. W: What do you think the funding picture is like for documentary people now that that substantial funder is gone? It’s basically grim I have to say, thank god for HBO and Cinemax, because they’re really an outlet for social issue documentaries to be seen. And if it’s not going to be on HBO, which has a very large market, then there’s Cinemax.