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At a glance: United States of America

UNICEF presents Living Rights film

© Video still/Tellegen
Fourteen-year-old Toti in the film Living Rights

By Karen Cirillo

NEW YORK, 15 June 2005 - Filmmaker Duco Tellegen has made a career in documenting the complexities of children’s lives around the world. His most recent film, Living Rights, explores three stories that illuminate rights from the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Tellegen was very moved by the Convention, but felt that people didn’t entirely understand the complexities of the document. “I think it's such an important document, which at the same time still has to come alive. I thought it was interesting to place the rights of the child within modern society: if you look at the rights of the child, you can't be opposed to them. It would be good if people started to think about situations - [not] what's good and bad - but also understand that in some situations, the solutions aren't easy to find.”

The film, which has its US Premiere at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York, is a touching portrait of the lives of three youths, each of whom are faced with significant decisions about their future. Each story is designed to bring to life one of the rights from the 1989 Convention.

© Video still/Tellegen
Sixteen-year-old Yoshi in the film Living Rights

“Every disabled child has the right to special care, education and training to help it enjoy a full and decent life in dignity, and achieve the greatest degree of self-reliance and social integration possible.” Sixteen-year-old Yoshinori has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism. Yoshi’s dream is to attend a regular Japanese high school, but his disability has prevented him from making that dream happen. He is working to understand his disability and make changes that will enable him to get the best possible education.

“Children of minority communities or indigenous populations have the right to enjoy their own culture and to practice their own religion and language.” At age eleven, Toti ran away from home. In her Maasai tribe, in Kenya, it is traditional to marry girls at a young age to obtain cattle the family needs to survive. She wanted to receive an education instead. Now fourteen and attending school away from home, she returns to her village to reconnect with her family.

© Video still/Tellegen
Eleven-year-old Lena in the film Living Rights

“Every child has a right to grow up in a socially and physically healthy environment.” Eleven-year-old Lena lives with her foster mother near the Ukrainian nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. Lena is experiencing health problems and is offered the opportunity to be adopted by an Italian family. In Italy, she would be able to receive the health care she needs for a better future. But the decision is a difficult one, as it would mean leaving everything she calls home.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child was ratified in 1990 at the United Nations. It was signed by all the nations of the world except the United States and Somalia. It is a set of standards and obligations which place children centre-stage in the quest for a just, respectful and peaceful society, and spells out basic human rights for all children, everywhere, all the time.

UNICEF is co-presenting Living Rights at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at Lincoln Center in New York.




14 June 2005:
Karen Cirillo reports on Living Rights film

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Related links

Learn more about the Convention on the Rights of the child

UNICEF in action: child protection

Find out more about this film and others playing at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival

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