Since Kate Blewett released her documentary, “Ukraine’s Forgotten Children”, there has been much outrage and debate. The controversial film, aired by BBC4, investigated state care for children in Ukraine, and was timed to coincide with Ukraine’s hosting of the 2012 UEFA Football Championship.
After watching her film, we reached out to her to ask why she painted such a bleak picture, and why there were no non-profits featured in her documentary (such as Happy Child Foundation, which helped Nikolai build the new home for the orphaned children).
Just a few days ago, we were surprised to discover that she wrote back to us! If you have watched the documentary, you might be interested to learn why she made it, what impact it’s making, and her vision for the future. With her permission, we’re sharing with you what she wrote us…
I would like to answer the points you raised.
I don’t consider my documentary one sided, I consider it a well structured and strong documentary about government neglect of children in state care.
When making a documentary it is not necessary to put all view points into the film – that is what a current affairs programme addresses i.e. various viewpoints. A documentary is a film that has a developing narrative or an unfolding one and within this it is not necessary to put more than one viewpoint.
I was not focusing on the non-profits and their fight to improve conditions, I was absolutely putting the government on the plate for observation, so to add charities and non-profit organisations would dilute this focus and message.
There is a very clear need for the government/authorities to prioritise the orphans more than they do at present and if each institute has to depend on charitable donations, then the government has no need to re prioritise, because others are doing their job for them.
My film is about making the government accountable.
I am aware of Albert and Happy Child, I was alongside them at the institute during filming. I am supporting their foundation by passing donations and offers of help that are being sent as a direct response to the film. Thousands of viewers are offering their help. $10,000 US dollars have been sent to Nikolai to help with the second Group Home he wants to set up with Happy Child.
Lyosha I learned was potentially up for adoption, but there was nothing confirmed when I last checked and that was July. I do so hope it goes through. Other children have potential interest too as I understand it now… fingers crossed for more.
I am sorry you feel I wanted to paint a bleak and helpless picture. This was not an aim – it was/is the reality that Nikolai has been dealing with and living with – a bleak and helpless system and is constantly stressed, worried, drained and distracted because he does not have enough government help, money, petrol money for hospital trips, enough staff, facilities, formula milk, nappies, etc, etc,etc… and no matter how much help non profit organisations bring in – there is a very real role here that the government is neglecting to fulfill – and it is this that I focus on.
I did not make a film about the good work of non-profit organisations as it does not show the struggle of many institutes in Ukraine. It is a film about institutes suffering state neglect.
I respect and support many non-profit organisations around the world who prioritise children in need, but if you speak to any of them they will all say ”We need more money to do our job and to get all the help we need to all of the children who need it”. This is where the government needs to do it’s job globally…
I do hope you can see what I am trying to do. I have no interest in creating bleakness. There is no need for this, there is enough of it for real around the world. I am trying to target the help where it is needed and responsibility where it is due.
The impact on the government is always the slowest part of any campaign. The documentary is part one of my work and continued campaigning is part two! I made a film in China 18 years ago and I remain a Trustee of a charity I founded and we still push against the government, raise money for non-profit organisations to put into projects on the ground in China – and the adoption level went up 7,000 percent after the film! The Chinese government then invested $3.2 billion into their state orphanages.
So to answer your question, the government reaction is slow and they normally take time to actually invest time and money into change – especially with orphans who are often regarded as the throw away children.
I understand from Nikolai (through my translator Olga) that he had a positive reaction from his local government body – offering him help. I am not sure to what extent anything has happened after such an offer – but we will keep pushing.
I am meeting with Mark Cook of Hope and Homes to put a plan together re making significant changes in Ukraine – especially a de-institutionalisation programme, which has to include the government and government funding. But you see – the film has created the interest and that’s why Mark Cook got in touch with me…
Many things grow from each film I make – each with the intention of positive change.
I don’t mind if you share my email with anyone you wish to share it with. I do hope that other good people, who might have felt helpless feel inspired to push forwards – always living with the hope and belief that the government will at some point kick into action and work alongside them.
For now though, the non-profit organisations are the children’s greatest help – and are so desperately needed… so please encourage those working with the children to give it all they have, as their work is critical work.
With thanks and kind regards to you and your colleagues, Kate.”
If you’d like to sponsor a Guardian Angel (caregiver) for the orphan children with disabilities featured in the film, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To sponsor formula for the babies at the orphanage, click here.
For more ways you can help, visit Kate’s website, truevisiontv.com.