I too disagree that this film would need more context to deserve a higher rating. What was attempted there was to give an impression from the world of Karachi runaway boys. People who argue that more objective context information should have been put in, have totally missed the point in my opinion. This film does not regard the boys as part of a socio-scientific category and exploits there cases to come up with a policy claim. Even more importantly, it does not give us the comfort of giving us some numbers so that we can begin to understand and come up with solutions. The reason is that what we see there has much more to do with giving people whom we barely hear the chance to share just a tiny bit of their world and much less with the Western viewer who wants to understand whats going on so that he or she can start to come up with a solution. When we hear from an area like this it is usually through an NGO which uses such stories to advocate for a certain program. It is almost impossible to see or hear stories without a great moral at the end. The great achievement of this (often heartbreaking) film derives from the fact that it does not do that. Instead it documents a very short episode of a few people's lives. As such it is much truer to the essence of a documentary, I believe. Yet I would not dare to say that what we saw was an authentic documentation of life there. We barely saw any women but that is surely due to the cultural circumstances.
I like the fact that the camera does not intrude into people's houses. First, it is a matter of respect, no matter how valuable or interesting one considers what is inside. What we see there is not human data, waited to be evaluated by a Western viewer. We see human beings and even if we might not approve with many of them, it is their right not to let their world be intruded by a camera team which makes a film that will be seen by people miles away from them. Secondly, I would have severely doubted the sincerity of the material if I would have seen even more intimate scenes. I almost felt uncomfortable and like an intruder when I saw these reunions. I wonder how the cameraman felt. Sometimes when among the kids, it felt as if the camera was held by one of the kids. I liked that.
The kids in general gave me a very disturbing feeling though. I saw children who were robbed of their childhoods though this is only my impression. The things they talked about and the way they organized hierarchies seemed like they were much older. I don't know why but because of the things they said, I sometimes felt cheated, as if what they were saying was not coming from them. But that might just show how little I know about social reality under these circumstances.
Pakistan is said to be a "tough" country. I think as far as what we saw is concerned this statement seems very true. Life in the foundation seemed cruel for the kids. But we can only assume what living with their families must have been like.
I take my hat off to the people who made that film, the people working at the Ethi foundation, the boys who volunteered so bravely for this film and I am grateful to the producers for not ruining it either with a cheap moral at the end of it or by giving us the comfort of allegedly understanding what we see. If there was a lesson it might be that this film makes us realize that we probably understand a lot less than we think we do.
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