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Children of Shadows

2001, 54 mins.

Children of Shadows

In Haiti, many parents are forced by destitution and desperation to give away their children. The children – who may be as young as four years old – then go to live and work for other families as live-in, full-time, unpaid domestic servants, virtually slaves. This documentary portrays the restavek children of Haiti.

The film follows the children as they go through their daily chores – the endless cycle of cooking, washing, sweeping, mopping, marketing, fetching water, running errands. In heartbreaking interviews the children speak honestly and shyly about the lives they are forced to lead. Their “aunts” (adoptive caretakers) speak openly and proudly of the vast mountain of work that “their” restavek does for them. The camera goes deep into the countryside to interview the peasant families as to what kind of situation would force them to give away one or more of their children.

Narrated entirely by the people in their native Creole (English subtitles) and with original Haitian music laced through the film, the documentary is both emotional and informative. It is the first film to be made about this situation, which until recently has never been talked about.