Eh, so the holidays are over and the long, hard winter really kicks in. And there I was, months away from POV’s next doc slate, looking for something to inspire me… And just when the dust bunnies began to blow like tumbleweed in my apartment, I saw something that really moved me. I was working out at the gym, and the flat screen tv was turned to a BBC World documentary about child slavery. And I was floored.
This World: Child Slavery with Rageh Omaar is a heart-breaking portrait of a series of children from different parts of the world who are forced into labor. It’s expertly shot and the access is disturbingly intimate — we see a 12-year-old African boy sold by his mother for about $50, and his introduction to his “master.” It was sickening and painful to watch, but I couldn’t tear my eyes away.
I was really intrigued by Omaar, who related his own personal history as a Somali/British filmmaker, connecting his roots to that of a boy herding goats in Somalia. I looked up Omaar and saw that he’s a pretty big deal in the UK, having been a frontline reporter for the BBC in Iraq for many years. (The Washington Post apparently called him the “Scud Stud.”)
He then left the BBC — which he called “a white man’s club” —; and now works for Al Jazeera and writes for The New Statesman. He made a film for Al Jazeera celebrating the strengths of Iran. I don’t know about the rest of his work, but the child slavery doc makes me an intrigued, if tentative, fan. I wonder if Omaar will ever make it to our shores with his provocative filmmaking. For now, interestingly, he’s hardly made a dent over here in the States.