INNOCENCE ABANDONED: STREET KIDS OF HAITI Image

In 2001, Young Man Kang directed the documentary short “Haitian Slave Children: Forgotten Angels,” which detailed a little-known human rights crisis in Haiti. This new feature-length documentary picks up the story a decade later – and, sadly, there is no good news to be found.

The film returns to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to find several of child orphans from the first documentary grown up and trying to run their own orphanages. These young men have more enthusiasm and goodwill than managerial talent – their orphanages are badly financed and offer little except bare-bones shelter. One attempt to build a new orphanage building in the Haitian countryside immediately collapses due to ridiculously poor planning.

More troubling are accusations leveled against an American orphanage operator that was profiled in the first film – in this production, several of the former residents of the orphanage accuse their American benefactor of being a child molester. Incredibly, one of the young Haitian orphanage operators that leads these charges admits to funding his operation by selling photographs of the boys in his care to a pedophile in Illinois.

This film was shot in late 2009, but production was extended into 2010 following the horrific earthquake that devastated Haiti. Needless to say, the earthquake did the impossible: it made a hopelessly tragic situation infinitely worse. Port-au-Prince was severely damaged, with most of its population forced to live in make-shift shelters in unsanitary situations. International relief aid failed to reach many Haitians – and at one point, the film’s director provides medical assistance to injured children on the street. Indeed, things were so dire that some communities sought to stave off famine by eating cookies made from a mixture of mud and cooking oil.

Although the film has a couple of wobbles – interviews with prosperous Haitian immigrants in the U.S. add relatively little to the proceedings, and the charges of child molestation against the American orphanage operator are never properly resolved – it nonetheless offers a bleak view of a social catastrophe that shows no signs of improving. This is one of the year’s most disturbing non-fiction features.

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