This Australian documentary by war photographer and all round good guy, George Gittoes, could more aptly be titled “I’m George Gittoes and I’m doing really great things for the poor children of Afghanistan.” I’ll say upfront that I don’t really like documentaries where the film maker makes themselves a part of the story. Louis Theroux pulls it off because you can see he is the catalyst for those on the societal margins to feel safe enough to reveal themselves. With others, it often comes across as a vanity project.
Gittoes was at the screening and introduced the film. It sounds like he is doing good work in Iran and is dedicated to using his art to bring attention to the many victims of conflicts around the world. This documentary focuses on the street kids of Jalalabad, many who work the streets from a young age – three or four – collecting cans, selling ice cream, just so their families can survive. Others become thugs but are themselves victims of adult gangs. It is a bleak picture. Within all this, Gittoes helps run the Yellow House, a place of refuge and support.
So it’s not Gittoes I have a problem with, it’s the way he puts himself at the centre of the film. He ‘interviews’ people to show he’s a good bloke, meets with the local head of the Taliban who says he’s a good bloke, and when the gang of ice cream sellers, the self titled Snow Monkeys, have their carts stolen by thug children, he comes in and saves the day. I’m sure he did a lot more but this is when I left.
This film is nearly three hours long, that’s a lot of George. I suspect if you edited him out, you would have an interesting and engaging 90 minute film. Maybe 60 minute. Where the film focused just on the kids, with the incidental background of every day life, the story was absorbing.
I felt bad walking out with George sitting just a couple of rows in front of me. We were also right in the middle of a very long row in a packed out session. I gave it a good 45 minutes though, I think it was enough.