Dear Diary: I just watched Colombia's Forgotten Children, the latest installment of the World Diary
series from National Geographic Channel.
I have high expectations for anything from within that familiar yellow border. But though it was beautifully photographed, the hour was a bit thin, doomed by over-ambition. There were too many subjects and not enough depth, in my humble view.
On-camera narrator Helena Cavendish de Moura, a Brazilian journalist, tries to go far beyond the images most Americans have of Colombia. I'd venture to guess that most think of the county in terms of either the drug runners portrayed on nightly news, or the cartoonish thugs from Romancing the Stone.
De Moura introduces us to some of the real people who subsist in a land ravaged by three decades of civil war. They are fascinating characters, to be sure. There is Luis, brutally conscripted into the guerrilla forces at the age of 12. He escaped his captors and, in the sequence, is being airlifted to a new life in Bogota.
But one wonders if his salvation was caused by the fact a journalist was seeking a story on kidnapped children, and the army decided to cooperate to look noble. It's too late to find out. It's on to the next story.
The journalist next takes us to a refugee camp of cardboard shacks outside Bogota. People there have little but the clothes on their backs yet one of their own, Nelson, has established a grade school. How does he survive to provide the only schooling some of these kids will ever receive? Too late — it's on to the next vignette.
Ditto for Timothy Ross, an award-winning photographer for Time
and Newsweek. He laid down his camera and now works for a shelter program that tried to talk teen prostitutes off of the street and into safe, respectable jobs. We also get a brief look at perhaps the most intriguing character, Hector Fabio, who runs a program teaching these penniless refugees to be circus performers.
It was intriguing, but I hope future episodes will go not just for beauty, but breadth.
Colombia's Forgotten Children
debuts on the National Geographic Channel on June 5.