Saturday, July 30, 2005

Documentary Shorts at the Hammer

Last night I went to the last of the Hammer Museum's Sundance Summer Shorts series. It was the nonfiction night, and there were several interesting and moving short documentaries. The most indepth was "The Children of Leningradsky", which explores the lives of homeless children in Moscow. These children have been abused and/or abandoned by their parents, most of them are addicted to glue, and many have resorted to prostitution. Many of them sleep and beg in the Leningradsky station, hence the title of the film.

Parts of the film, especially scenes of the children playing in tunnels, reminded me of "Dark Days", the film about homeless adults living in New York train tunnels. But while Dark Days was surprisingly uplifting, "The Children of Leningradsky" showed that the children in the film, due to their situation, are no angels. We see them sniffing glue, fighting and attacking older drunks (during one such attack a kid asks the cameraman, "why are you filming this?"). I had a vision of the children who survive growing up to become skin heads, a major problem in Moscow when I was there in 2001. As if to deny this, the final quote is from a child who says (roughly), "God believes in people and wants to help them. Not just Russians, Chechens too. But especially children."

Another short film, "Recycle," profiled a homeless man who lives in Echo Park.

I don't know what to say. It is another reminder of society's failings. There are people working on the problem both here and there, but it needs a lot more attention and money.


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