Since the fall of the Iron Curtain an estimated four million children have found themselves living on the streets in the former countries of the Soviet Union. In the streets of Moscow alone there are over 30,000 surviving in this manner at the present time. The makers of the documentary film concentrated on a community of homeless children living hand to mouth in the Moscow train station Leningradsky. Eight-year-old Sasha, eleven-year-old Kristina, thirteen-year-old Misha and ten-year-old Andrej all dream of living in a communal home. They spend winter nights trying to stay warm by huddling together on hot water pipes and most of their days are spent begging. Andrej has found himself here because of disagreements with his family. Kristina was driven into this way of life by the hatred of her stepmother and twelve-year-old Roma by the regular beatings he received from his constantly drunk father. "When it is worst, we try to make money for food by prostitution," admits ... Written by
It's hard to tell exactly how to approach this documentary. Even at face value it is hard to judge how honest this portrayal is and, particularly, how this small group of delinquents fits into a bigger picture. Even the most minimalist narrative could has solved this later problem, but all we are given are connivingly edited snippets of interviews with the children depicted. I would honestly be surprised if you could not find a similar sample of abused white trash street kids with similar lives in many western cities. I don't doubt that the problem is more prevalent in many of the economically collapsed Eastern European nations, but The Children of Leningradsky totally failed to illustrate this.
I find it very hard to see this documentary as anything but exploitative. The tragic events the documentary follows are depicted in a very one-sided manner and are edited in a way that seems purely designed to shock the middle class and further the careers of the film makers. I was more horrified that the filmmakers had the audacity to cash in on these kids than I was by the events themselves. Schlock documentary making at its worst.
All the marks I can give this are purely because I believe the schlock angle may scare some of the mediocre set to act on child poverty.
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