The Chronicle Herald has been rightly humiliated for its skank screed on refugee children. Set against the backdrop of the “newspaper’s” self-inflicted implosion, it seems useful to highlight several films that ponder the plight of youth around the globe. Indeed, parents and teachers might consider watching an age-appropriate film or two with youths — as an antidote to the hate-mongering that the Chronicle Herald article unleashed.
The stunning 1984 debut of filmmaker Euzhan Palcy, Sugar Cane Alley details the relationship between a rascally boy and his grandmother, a strong-willed woman determined to help him avoid the hardships of plantation life in 1930s-era Martinique.
Among the most acclaimed films of 2002, Rabbit-Proof Fence is based on a true story about an aboriginal girl who leads her sister and cousin on a 2,400-kilometre trek back to the indigenous community from which they were taken during the 1930s, in Australia. The film sparked a national debate about the “stolen generation” of native youth forcibly separated from their families and placed in Australian residential schools. The work holds enormous relevance for First Nations issues in Canada, especially the alarming rates of suicide among indigenous youth in Attawapiskat and elsewhere.
The 2002 Spanish movie Carol’s Journey takes as its theme the separation of parents and children. The title character is a 12-year-old Spanish American girl raised in New York City who travels with her mother to Spain during the country’s civil war.
The Story of the Weeping Camel turns on a group of nomadic Mongolian shepherds and their efforts to persuade a recalcitrant camel to nurse her rare albino calf. Two young boys prove central to the task in the captivating 2003 film.
Released in 2004, Turtles Can Fly is set in a village on the border between Iraq and Turkey and explores the world of a group of war-ravaged children who attempt to survive by collecting scrap metal from detonated land mines. The deeply moving feature film puts an indelible face on conflicts in the Middle East.
Centred on a teenage girl who leaves her rural home to work in a jeans factory, the 2005 documentary China Blue probes sweat-shop conditions in China. The film makes clear that the rising economic clout of the country is inextricably linked to Western demand for “cheap goods” that extract a horrific price on multitudes of adolescents who toil in the factories.
Winner of the 2005 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Tsotsi examines the lives of South African children rendered orphaned and homeless after family members have succumbed to HIV. By a twist of fate, the teenage title character (whose name translates to “thug”) finds himself the caretaker of an infant.
Nurse. Fighter. Boy. is a powerful treatment of the relationship between a black teen and his mother living in Toronto. Director Charles Officer noted that he aimed to deliver a nuanced portrait of Afro-Canadian life in the 2008 film. The cast includes Walter Borden, the celebrated New Glasgow actor, poet and playwright.
The author of Alice Walker: A Life, Evelyn C. White is a freelance journalist in Halifax.