Angels Never Sleep
MINSK, Belarus, June 1, 2012 - United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Vladimir Pougatch, frontman of J:Mors band, present a documentary, Angels Never Sleep, produced with the support of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus. The first run of the film takes place on June 1 to celebrate the International Children's Day on the web-portal TUT.BY and on Belarus-1 TV channel.
The previous days three captivating teasers and a music video accompanied by issue-raising articles were launched on www.tut.by and other media to generate public response.
The concept of the documentary belongs to Vladimir Pougatch, famous Belarus singer and frontman of J:Mors band. Driven by his civil responsibilities, in spring 2011 he approached the United Nations Children's Fund as an organization which works to ensure the rights of the child.
Belarus Country Programme Document 2011-2015 which outlines areas for cooperation between the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of the Republic of Belarus emphasizes juvenile justice and the protection of the rights of children in conflict with the law among its priorities. On the one hand, this is an issue which raises a lot of concerns among the public at large, but on the other, there is no consensus as to what these children really need – help or punishment. These topics often remain below the surface and are hidden from public attention.
Documentary crew, led by Vladimir Pougatch and UNICEF staff, spent four days in the Mogilev Special Custodial School for boys. During this period the school also hosted a group of girls who came to take part in the project from a similar institution in Petrikov, the Petrikov Special Vocational School of Light Industry N1. The storyline of the film follows Vladimir Pougatch telling what he experiences and feels while being among those who are often called screwed-up children. But are they really screwed-up?
'These are absolutely normal kids who are pushed to violating the law usually by difficult situations in their families,' says Vladimir Pougatch. 'My attitude to these teenagers changed several times while we were working on the film. To find out more about all aspects of this new topic for me – children in conflict with the law, I really had to fling myself into it. We spent all the time with kids and came back to our hotel just for the night. We talked to boys and girls, made our files and shot videos. There were stories we could not hear without tears. There was one about a kid who had to sleep in a kennel in winter, because it was warmer with the dog than in the house of his parents. Or another one about a girl who learned only at school that pasta could also be cooked… It would seem that it is 21st century, Wi-Fi is all around, but you still come across such things…'
It is not the fault of the children that they find themselves in a special institution, but nearly always, it is their parents who are to be blamed. Most alumni in the school are from marginalized families. On the one hand, these children have not seen much in life apart from drinking bouts and immoral conduct of their parents. On the other hand, we are those who help them, consciously or not, to enter into conflict with the law by purchasing cigarettes for minors, passing by a crying kid, disregarding scandals of the neighbors behind the wall… Our indifference and non-interference with regard to many children we refuse to notice send them in the end to special institutions.
To strike a chord with children and to get to know them better as well as to engage them in shared fun experience, the crew decided to record a joint performance of J:Mors' single Angels Never Sleep. The teenagers showed real involvement during the rehearsals, and communication became easier and more interesting. The song was recorded in the last day of the crew’s stay in the school. And the video footage which had been filmed during the previous four days was used as a music video for the song.
The documentary’s authors face a difficult but noble challenge: to change the attitude of society towards children in conflict with the law, i.e. the children who commit offences, as well as to explain that help is needed not only for the kids but for the society as a whole. Working with such children is a sophisticated and custom-tailored job, but it brings good benefits. For the society it is less costly than living in a criminal world and investing resources in crime investigations and detention facilities for offenders.
'The documentary has turned out to be interesting thanks to a high degree of responsibility and commitment of Vladimir Pougatch and the whole team of the project,' says Yuri Oksamitniy, UNICEF Representative in Belarus. 'The inclusion and re-socialization of children in conflict with the law is one of our priorities in Belarus. I am happy that jointly with the Ministry of Education we managed to implement this project, Angels Never Sleep. I am sure that the children who took part in the filming of the documentary have received a valuable experience as well. This was also a good opportunity to think about life and what needs to be changed in us to make their future better.’
With this documentary Angels Never Sleep UNICEF sets the objective to encourage a favourable attitude to these children in society, support them when they come back to their families and re-join the society. They are no worse than we are, but need much more help, support and sympathy.
As special custodial institutions for rehabilitation children in conflict with the law are subordinate to the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus, it provided expertize and technical support during project implementation.
'I do know children who are characters in this video, and I've seen personal files of many of them,' says Aleksei Ananenko, Chief Inspector, Department of Social and Extracurricular Work of the Ministry of Education. 'You know what has been the strongest emotional experience for me? The way the children talk about their parents. They seem to sound bitter and hurt but they always add that they want their mothers to be around… Absolutely each kid needs a family. I think this documentary is a must for parents and for young people who plan to have children.'
The introduction of juvenile justice in Belarus is top agenda for UNICEF Country Office. This system implies that juvenile delinquents have to be subject to correctional and rehabilitation measures rather than punishment. The juvenile justice system presupposes the whole range of measures aimed at preventing offences, working with schools, families and general public. Fortunately, even within current system of education there are many people who spare no effort to change screwed-up teenagers into decent people.
The film’s authors are convinced that society must lend a helping hand to all children who have stumbled. They all deserve a chance for a credit of trust and pass for a better life.
For more information, please contact:
Ms. Julia Novichenok