Many films have been made about street children. Some good, some not. The kids are rewarding targets for filmmakers like myself, as we ardently become sponges for their heartfelt stories. With so much done already, why then, I was often asked, make another documentary about one?
The answer is simple: by means of a compelling story which accompanies a young street mother and her baby for over a year, I want to draw attention to the alarming reality of homeless kids who are setting out to start their own families. This is new. During several years of research, we found that the proliferation of a next generation of street children is largely undocumented. Governments, NGO's, academics, filmmakers' not even UNICEF manages data on children who are born on the city streets. Statistically, they are all treated the same, while the social differences between parents and their children are enormous.
In Nicaragua, as in most countries, children and teens end up on the street because they are running away from extreme poverty, domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. Arriving alone in the city, they will befriend others their age and are quickly absorbed in a street community that becomes their family. Having enjoyed some years of basic education, kids tend to be between 6 and 12 years old when they spend their first night on a piece of cardboard under the stars. I often refer to them as the first generation. They are the ones who some years later decide to have children themselves.
The second generation -- babies like Karla in Karla's Arrival -- are not on the run from some previous life. They are homeless from day one. Unlike their parents, they won't know what it's like to live under a roof or have a family in the traditional sense of the word (although the street community haphazardly offers some alternative). They might not ever go to school and won't be registered as citizens of their country. Chances are that, according to their governments, they won't exist at all and, as a result, will have no right to education or health care.
It's no small problem either. Estimations are that there are 75 million girls living on the world's streets. Most of them will at least bear one child before they turn 18. This is an enormous, worldwide, complex yet unknown problem.
Ironically, the baby can be part of the solution. While a young mother's low self-esteem might inhibit her from leaving the streets, a son or daughter can mark a turning point. Their babies offer them something which will have been lacking in their own lives -- unconditional love -- and are seen to be more important than themselves. A desire to offer their child a better life is reason enough to seek help, which generally is not hard to come by.
I believe it goes without saying that becoming a parent is the most basic human right that should be available to all. I made Karla's Arrival to open a dialogue around the question of how we can create the conditions to make this a reality for everyone. And, luckily, we came across a touching and hopeful story.
Koen Suidgeest (Amsterdam, 1967) is a Dutch filmmaker based in Madrid, Spain. He is the director of Karla's Arrival, which will air May 6, 2012, on Link TV's DOC-DEBUT, funded in part by ITVS.
One such story is of hip-hop artist Sister Fa and her efforts to stop the practice of female genital cutting (FGC) in her home country of Senegal. From her early days as an unpolished music phenom, through a career-reinvention in Berlin, Sister Fa has continually smashed barriers in the male-dominated hip-hop world. But as the stirring documentary Sarabah reveals, her strength of character was forged in a journey of hardship and transformation. Now, with the support of her husband and child, Sister Fa speaks out about her own experience as a survivor of FGC, and travels with her band to rural Senegal, where she launches a music-packed education campaign that culminates in an emotional visit to her home village. Sister Fa will be joining Link for a LIVE web chat following the broadcast and online presentation of Sarabah Sunday, March 4 at 11am PT/2pm ET, to take questions about her story and important work.Questions can be posted in advance here.
These stories are so important, and sharing them is what fosters action and change. So tune in to Link TV (DISH 9410 DIRECTV 375) from March 1-8 to honor women around the globe. You'll see issues and perspectives uncovered and unseen on any other media outlets. Watch as Iranian women activists risk their safety to confront political candidates, and Western women trade their comfortable lives for experiences as Tribal Wives. Find out what it takes To Educate a Girl in Nepal and Uganda, and follow Nigerian doctors, midwives and families to the frontlines of maternal care. And of course -- tune in to the hit Danish drama Borgen, the TV show currently on American airwaves that showcases a female head of state.
For more information on these programs and ways to get involved in Link's efforts to lift women globally, please visit linktv.org/women
If you read and watch entertainment news, you know that an Iranian filmmaker, Asghar Farhadiis, is racking up the Hollywood awards for A Separation even in a climate of US-imposed sanctions. And if you're paying attention to most media coverage, you're well aware of the nuclear issue. But other than that, do we have a lens into the lives and stories of Iranians? Does this kind of cultural lens matter as we settle into our perspectives about Iran? Yes. Without showing the lives, struggles and culture of everyday people living and working in Iran, we in the West have a potentially skewed image of Iranians.
In 2006, Link TV developed a documentary TV series, Bridge to Iran, to provide a window into the lives and struggles of everyday Iranians -- to respond to the cultural and political tensions that have developed between Iran and the US since the Iranian Revolution. Over the years, Bridge to Iran has covered a wide range of social and political issues in modern Iran, including the experiences of young girls facing womanhood and uncertain futures, religious pilgrims who risk their lives to visit a holy site in war-torn Iraq, rural life and political awareness, an exploration of Tehran as an urban metropolis, and Iranian women's participation in the election process.
The new season premieres on February 14. In each of the four episodes of Bridge to Iran, in-depth discussions between host Parisa Soultani and top Iranian filmmakers provide a unique lens into some of the challenges and realities facing Iranians during a time of increased instability -- including censorship, sanctions and safety concerns.
Here are the details about the films and when to catch the episodes, on Link TV or online:
Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution, directed by Nader Takmil Homayoun, explores the history and politics of Iran through its rich filmmaking tradition; premieres on February 14 at 7:30 pm ET / 4:30 pm PT and February 16 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online starting February 14.
The Queen and I, directed by Nahid Sarvestani, documents the filmmaker's complex relationship with the exiled former queen of Iran; premieres on February 21 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and February 23 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online now!
We Are Half of Iran's Population, directed by Rakhshan Bani Etemad, looks at women's participation in the controversial 2009 elections; premieres on February 28 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and March 1 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online now!
Siah Bazi (The Joy Makers), directed by Maryam Khakipour, traces the demise of a popular form of irreverent street theater; premieres on March 6 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT and March 8 at 10:00pm PT. Watch online starting March 6.
Bridge to Iran offers a diverse perspective on a country on the receiving end of a torrent of media attention -- but with a lens that's inclusive of the people and the art found within Iranian borders. We hope you'll tune in and tell others.
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Caty Borum Chattoo is a producer and communication strategist with Link TV, assistant professor in the School of Communication at American University in Washington, DC, and media fellow with the AU Center for Social Media.
Yul Kwon, host of Link TV's LinkAsia, recently did a Red Chair Interview with CNN, in which he shares some key experiences in his life. Along with his on-air interview, Yul ellaborates further in an eloquently written essay posted on the CNN blogs about his Korean background, explaining how he turned to a career in television to overcome social stereotyping of Asian-Americans in the media and come to terms with his own cultural identity. Both video and essay can be seen here. Below is a moving excerpt from his essay:
"My parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea in 1970 with big dreams, but little money. Since they couldn't afford to put my brother and me in daycare or preschool, they encouraged us to watch television as a way to learn English. Every morning, my brother and I watched "Sesame Street" on PBS, which taught us how to count and recite the alphabet. Not only did our TV become another caregiver, it became the primary medium through which I learned about the world. It allowed me to see and experience things I'd never seen before. It helped me imagine a better future for me and my family. I studied hard and eventually made my way to Stanford University and then Yale Law School. For a poor kid like me, television helped provide the inspiration and vision I needed to realize the American dream.
But as much as television was a source of empowerment and inspiration, it was also a powerful source of constraint. Television defined the way I saw myself and my relationships with other people, and I didn't see a lot of people who looked like me. Asian-American characters were few and far between, and for lack of better alternatives, my favorite childhood hero was Big Bird. He wasn't real, of course, but I didn’t care. He was nice, had lots of friends and was yellow -- and hence, clearly, Asian..."
Yul Kwon is the host of Link TV's original Asian news program LinkAsia. Yul has had a diverse career spanning law, business, technology, and media. Although his multifaceted professional experience spans almost two decades, his rise to international acclaim began in 2006, when he became the first Asian American to win the CBS reality show, Survivor.
Prior to his Survivor victory, Yul held positions at both Google and McKinsey & Company. As an attorney, he clerked on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, practiced law at Venture Law Group and Wiltshire & Grannis, worked as a legislative aide in the US Senate, and most recently served as Deputy Chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.