The subject of this Meryl Streep-narrated docu, filmed over seven years in eight different countries, is the shocking plight and unimaginable number of children worldwide (246 million) forced into virtual slavery as child laborers. Expose of horrific conditions under which tots toil features evocative imagery of kids chained to looms or splashing through poisonous pesticides. Yet in its reliance on emotionally loaded voiceover and its disconcertingly direct appeals for support, Len Morris’ old-fashioned docu seems more designed for fund-raising pitches than theatrical release. Pic opened May 20 at Gotham’s Quad Cinema.
Film castigates governments that don’t enforce laws against child labor, and it indicts international investors whose misspent loans must be paid off on the backs of the poor. Simultaneously, pic’s tract celebrates programs that convert dump scavenging into organized recycling, which compensate parents for keeping their kids in school or which rehabilitate children saved from servitude, tacitly espousing boycotts of products made with child labor. Pic hammers hard, blaming and praising with equal abandon. If helmer Morris had simply allowed passionate activist interviewees to make their own case, docu’s awkward guilt-milking moments could have been avoided.