Sunday, September 14, 2008

Film Documents Struggles Of Haitian Children In Dominican Republic

By Cindy Leise

ELYRIA — “The Sugar Babies,” a film detailing the savage conditions of Haitian children and their families in the sugar fields of the Dominican Republic, will be shown today at Lorain County Community College.

Following the film will be discussion by its executive producer, Claudia Chiesi, former LCCC vice president of academic and student services.
Chiesi, who served at LCCC from 1990 to 1995, said that making the film was a labor of love.

“I’ve always been interested in human rights,” said Chiesi, who served as president of Harford Community College in Maryland after her time at LCCC.

“These children start planting at the age of 6 or 7 and start cutting cane at 12,” she said. “There’s a lot of maiming and cuts and injuries along the way.”

“The Sugar Babies” focuses on the moral price of sugar and those who profit form human trafficking and exploitation.

Children earn the equivalent of 17 cents for planting half a mile to three-quarters of a mile of sugarcane plants, and adults earn the equivalent of $1.70 per ton of cane cut, collected, delivered and weighed, she said.

Chiesi worked with Miami filmmaker Amy Serrano, who wrote, filmed and directed the documentary that was shot in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, England and the United States.

“The film was very dependent on people who were helping us — parish priests and other activists,” she said.

While the crew was working on the film, the plight of the sugar cane workers also was featured on “Anderson Cooper 360,” she said.

The significance of the title is simple, Chiesi said.

“The children struck us as babies, innocents — most of them eat sugar cane; that is the bulk of their diet,” she said. “You’ll see distended stomachs and children’s bodies are covered with fungus; the whole place is infested with rats and mosquitoes.”

She said she was particularly concerned with how the people, who live in shacks, fared during the recent hurricanes.

Chiesi’s role was fundraising, arranging for legal counsel and other nuts and bolts that freed the filmmaker to focus on the story.

Among those who contributed to making the film was Cindy Nord, a member of the family that founded the Nordson Corp.

The film only cost about $140,000 to produce, and Chiesi continues to seek donations for its further distribution.

It won “Best Documentary” in the Delray Beach Film Festival in Florida earlier this year and was an official selection at the New Orleans International Rights Film Festival, the Buffalo Niagara Film Festival, the Montreal International Film Festival and the United Nations Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival. It also made a tour of France with Amnesty International this year.

Joining Chiesi in the discussion will be co-producer Constance Haqq.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or

Source: Chroniclet.Com

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