TV Review: Innocents Lost

The children of Guatemala turn to glue as a matter of course to deaden the hunger and the blackness which assaults them every day ... then the local police `tidy' the streets, and respectable folk turn their backs when four policemen descend upon a child in public and kick him to death.

Nobody could blame you if you didn't watch Innocents Lost (C4), which is all part of the problem, I suppose. There was a small boy at the start of the first of the two-part programme. Aged about three, he just sat there with wide eyes, clapping and smiling. A normal child. Except that you knew that it would not be any time at all before he was just like the rest. The others around him, aged from five upwards, had eyes which stared unnaturally. Their arms swung wildly. Their walk was a grotesque gavotte of insanity. And all of them carried small screw-topped jars, with holes in the lids, and a brown layer of glue across the bottom. They were the street children of Guatemala city, but they could have been from any other Latin American country where 40 million of the world's 100 million homeless children live.

They turn to glue as a matter of course to deaden the hunger and the blackness which assaults them every day. So many talked, with slurred diction, about the deliverance of death they waited for. It did not seem an exaggerated response. One after another they came, in an unrelenting catalogue of misery. Then came the still photographs of kids with their eyes gouged out or their heads blown off. The local police "tidy" the streets of these children who beg and steal and litter the place with their presence - until respectable folk turn their backs when four policemen descend upon a child in public and kick him to death. If a sense of hopelessness overcame us, it seemed to overtake the programme makers, too. Kate Blewett and Brian Woods, the team who produced The Dying Rooms, the expose of orphanages in China two years ago, cast around for someone to blame and lighted upon the American multinational which makes the country's most popular glue. It seemed unfair. Quite what the firm could do to make a difference was unclear.

But Blewett and Woods were looking for someone to blame, I suspect, to assuage their own sense of responsibility. In a Greek mental hospital they filmed whimpering children tied to beds or caged, snarling, in padlocked cots in wards. In Greece, it seems, parents dump handicapped children in such places to avoid damaging the marriage prospects of their siblings. They remain for life, often never examined after the day they are admitted. Those who aren't mad to start with are made so. Yet when the camera confronted the authorities, it was hard to blame the unhappy officials who, despite a 10-year fight, weren't allowed the funding even for a physiotherapist for the bed-bound.

In a Russian gulag for 14- to 18-year-olds - where boys from Moscow got three years for shoplifting - it was the same grim parade of unredeemed tragedy. It was no expose - the Kirovgrad camp commandant had invited the camera in the forlorn hope of receiving Western aid. It was a heart- rending account of man's inhumanity to children. The harrowing scenes were interspersed with a pathetic litany of children reciting from the articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which had been ratified by most of the 31 countries the programme visited. Where the first programme focused on neglect, the second, last night, looked at exploitation - from the dull despair of 10-year-old domestic servants in Togo to the lifelong bondage of temple prostitutes in Ghana and three- year-olds kidnapped from Bangladesh to train as camel jockeys in the United Arab Emirates.

Only one thing saved it all from a sense of terrible voyeurism. Blewett and Woods kept appearing in their own film and it was as if their pain purged us of our complicity. They stayed with a rocking child in a Greek cot until the movement stopped and a tentative smile appeared. They sat in devastated silence with a boy in the gulag, and made us share that silence too. Among the child prostitutes of Costa Rica - who crayon colouring books between clients - they met one girl whose life of sex had begun when she was raped, aged seven. They stayed with her at length and made us stay too. We stared until the tears of shame filled her eyes. She turned away, and we looked on still.

Suggested Topics
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

    Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

    £40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

    Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect