Doc of the Week: It’s all about the children. -bb

Children Underground (2001)

My gut reaction to this documentary was strong.  I wanted to make this posting funny and witty and funny.  But, I can’t seem to do it.

This oscar nominated piece of work takes place in Romania.  The doc follows 5  – homeless – drug addicted – and uneducated children through 2 years of their brutally tough lives.

This traditionally shot documentary was extremely real and horribly upsetting.  The children are dirty, and vulgar.  I was amazed by the life moments that the filmmaker was able to capture.  I couldn’t help but notice that the female street dwelling children strongly resembled men.  They wore manly clothing and sported traditionally male haircuts.

Two things stick out to me as shocking to watch.

1. Children beating up other children.

2. Children all getting high on paint thinner AKA Aurolac.   (Want to learn more ? )

I fell in love with one child who – despite being the “runt” of the group was determined to get an education and hold onto hope.  I so wanted to reach through the TV and help that particular child out.  His emotions were raw and he was wise beyond his 10 years.

In fact – due to the gritty nature of the content- I almost didn’t notice the slight continuity issues or seemly random switches between color and black and white photography.  Super critical Becky can’t help but wish for a little more character development in the first 40 minutes and a little less random montage of children on the street.  On the other hand – I do hold a special place in my heart for highly successful low budget docs.

For the doc’s honesty and ability to sober up a room I give it –

4 out of 5 Cheers


3 Replies to “Doc of the Week: It’s all about the children. -bb”

  1. I agree with your critique on a lack of character development for much of the show. I tend to be partial to movies with no narrator voice. This movie had no narrator voice, the children came across as raw and almost too real. However, the early 40 minutes, rather that using the opportunity to do some sophisticated story development, we got a lot of montage o’misery. think it was intended as exposition, but honestly, the idea of misery was pretty easy to grasp without having to slog through it directionless – the themes, a substitute family structure that exists alongside beatings, begging, and sniffing paint, all taking place inside a subway station in Bucharest. Got it. Also didn’t really care for what the filmmakers used to substitute for the narrator – otherwise known as the really long and intrusive chyron that would pop up unexpectedly to exposit various scenes.

    Once the story got going, it was a compelling piece. There’s an photographer saying I hear a lot (in my head) “F9 and be there,” – meaning take a good photograph, and be somewhere that you could actually take interesting photos. These filmmakers saw something it was easy to pass by. And it was clear they had strong emotional relationships with these kids, they were able to get everyone to open up in a world where being closed off was your defense. And once they did – oh, that story was chilling. What choice to children have when their families don’t want them – they have to find somewhere to be wanted, and they get high to deal with it. That was maddening. Watching ten year old get high, experiencing hallucinogenic fits, made you want to leap through the screen and save them. It makes you look at homelessness in a new way, when its personalized. It’s the great part of documentary to see the world in a new way through a personal story.

    I’m going with 3.5 of 5 cheers.



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