Children Playing War

21 Jul
Working the Cocaine Fields

Working the Cocaine Fields

I came across a very moving program on PBS World (Channel 8.3 in Phoenix) this afternoon that nearly broke my heart. The film, Global Voices Columbia… showed young children celebrating war…playing war games with guns and knives and choosing sides…paramilitary or guerrilla versus the army. Virtually every student in the classroom to the dismay of the astute teacher saw this as the future they wanted. These 10 year old boys an girls were so numb and used to death that they not only saw it as the only way of life but as a life they should aspire to.

Not if I kill you first.

Not if I kill you first.

My first thought was truly…well don’t all children play war games? Cowboy’s versus Indians for our parents…for us it was Spy Games which included dressing all in black at night and taking others “hostage” as well as “torture” by tying each other down and stuffing dirty socks in the hostages mouth…usually me. Is any of this natural. Is it necessary?

But the children of Columbia live in a much different world than my adolescent escapism, which was really just a chance to show I could keep up with the boys and get my nose out of my books for a few hours! These children commit hour upon hour every day to practice of military formations and instillation in each other that there is no other life.

The teacher found it hard to continue teaching these children to prepare them for such an unnecessary future. Trying to reason with them…”What is the purpose of studying if that is all you want for your future?” “To learn about guns and weapons,” was the sad reply. One older boy in particular spoke of how he would readily kill his friends and families if asked. He also showed a great deal of awareness that this life was all about killing and being killed. It was just a fact for him, not a choice in his mind.

A young Columbian boy plays with his donkey.

A young Columbian boy plays with his donkey.

Another much younger boy seemed to possess the closest thing to wisdom in the group…saying he would not join these armed gangs. He did want not want to give up a chance to live his life to the fullest. Unless of course they came and killed his parents…that would drive him over the edge and he would want revenge. He said it with a twinge of sadness through his smile…almost as if he expected it to happen. He spoke as someone much wiser than his years…”Things are so nice when you are a kid, then you grow up and it gets much harder.”

More about the program:

(San Francisco, CA)—An intimate, emotional journey, ABC COLOMBIA explores the lives of children growing up amidst conflict and violence in an area in Colombia that is controlled by paramilitary and is host to extensive cocaine fields. Shown through the eyes of two boys, 12-year-old Miguel Angel and 17-year-old Huriday, the film follows the young protagonists in this problematic setting through an entire school year, exploring some of the realities that nurture and perpetuate the violence in their homeland. ABC COLOMBIA will have its U.S. broadcast premiere on Sunday, July 20, 2008, at 10 PM on Global Voices, a new series produced by ITVS International airing on the PBS WORLD digital channel (check local listings).

Over the last 18 years, the film’s director, Enrica Colusso, has visited Colombia numerous times with her Colombian-born husband. ABC COLOMBIA is a portrayal of her relationship with this fascinating and complex country.

“I was drawn to this reality and these characters because they have been part of my life for almost 10 years now. My husband and I own a small piece of land in the region, so this is a place and a community I know well. I have in fact known the youngest character since he was 3,” said Colusso. Colombia’s 50-year-old internal armed conflict has encouraged a growing culture of violence. For Colusso, ABC COLOMBIA is not a discourse on the state of Colombia, but an opportunity to represent the violence that is around these children, how it is perceived by them and how it affects the choices they make.

“Some of these children I have seen grow up and, over the years, transform into hardened adolescents, which today provokes complex feelings within me. I wanted to explore what it means to grow up in an area of conflict—to show the difficult, and often violent, choices these children face.”

I can’t help but wonder what the solution is…knowing it is much bigger than myself.  Would love to hear your comments on this subject.




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