ZERO TEN TWENTY – The Children of Rio

Posted on 21 June 2012 by admin

By Sabina Zaccaro

It’s 1992. Baby Vusumzi lives with his mother, Mavis, in a small house in a black township called Thornhill, one of the places blacks were moved to during apartheid. Vusumzi’s father has just died of pneumonia and Mavis’ work as a cleaner all they have to survive.

In the new South Africa, 12 years after apartheid, over 40 people a day are being murdered in places like this. “The people are all right till pay day, then all hell breaks loose,” says 10-year old Vusumzi.

Mavis at Vusumzi’s grave

Mavis at Vusumzi’s grave

“They often get drunk and have their wage packets stolen. Some of the poor people steal because they’re very hungry.” Asked how he would improve things, he says, “I would stop grown-ups from raping children.”

Vusumzi is one of the children who was followed by tve since 1992. For 20 years, tve has filmed the lives of 11 children, born in 10 countries across the planet at the time of the Rio Earth Summit, to see if the promises of a cleaner, healthier, bettereducated and less dangerous world would be fulfilled in their lifetimes.

“Now there’s a new Earth Summit in Rio, we’ve returned to each child to discover what happened to them,” director Bruno Sorrentino told TerraViva.

Half an hour’s drive from Vusumzi’s house, Sorrentino finds another world. A fertile lowland, home to white-owned farms. It is where Justin was born, at a time of upheaval in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Apartheid has only just ended and white farmers viewed as settlers by radical black movements are being attacked. Justin’s father and his wife Amanda sleep with a revolver under the mattress, and the radio to call the police in case of trouble.

When apartheid came to an end, many things started to change. People’s attitudes have changed, Justin’s family says. “People want to get together and make the country work and the political situation work instead of being antagonistic towards each other and saying the other one is the ‘big bad daddy’, you know? They’re working together to try and make a better place.”

When Justin was born in 1992, only white children attended school. But that belongs to the past. “Like, a friend doesn’t have to be the proper colour for you,” says Justin. “He can be any, as long as he’s a true friend. Always help you…play with you. Yeah, doesn’t matter what colour he is for me.”

Vusumzi and Justin grow up in a South Africa marked by separate development, where division is not so much about race but wealth. Once in university at the age of 19, Justin feels like he has the future in his hands. “When I left my name behind in Queenstown I left all the insecurities I had, all the things I wasn’t confident about in myself…. (now) I feel like I have found myself. I’m still learning, and growing, but for the most part, I know who I am. And I know where I want to be. And I know what I need to do to develop, to grow. I’m an ambitious young adult.

Vusumzi was not lucky enough to even attempt a different life. When he was 17, his mother had to leave home to try to find work in another town. While she was away, Vusumzi was stabbed by a drunk boy in a street attack.

Three years later, Mavis is in front of Vusumzi’s killer. She wants to forgive him. “For 20 years, we have followed the lives of these 11 children born at the first time world leaders had got together to promise future generations a better world. It’s been an incredible adventure,” Sorrentino told TerraViva.

Education turns out to be a fil rouge, a common thread in all of these children stories.

“When I started I had no idea of what the stories would be in the end. We chose the parents, not the babies…But yes, education has become a really strong theme as being seen as the universal way out. There’s nothing new in this but it’s interesting to see how strong it is.” The three-episode film telling the stories of 10 children, and the too short story of Vusumzi, is part of the multimedia ReframingRio project and was presented Monday, Jun. 18 in Rio. More can found on the tve website.


Categorized | English

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