September 5, 2008

“Children of the Dump” document their life on film

By Mariana Martínez

“We see how they bring the cars in, dismantle them and then take the leftover aluminum carcass over the edge of a cliff near my house”, that is the description made by 11 year old Luis Adán Ramírez Hernández, a reality he documents with a camera and it is now part of an exhibit at the No Name gallery in Tijuana.

Luis Adán just turned 11 but he is still in third grade - when he should be in 5th grade. Along with his family, he lives in an illegal settlement that until a few years ago grew on the skirts of the Tijuana city dump.


Filmmaker John Sheedy talks with families in Colonia Fausto Gonzalez while on a visit to the community to produce a documentary film about the lives of families who make a living by recycling from the city garbage dump. Photo - David Maung

Named Colonia Fausto González, its residents are mainly “pepenadores”; people who make a living by gathering metal, plastic and glass out of the dump, they then take them to recycling plants in exchange for cash.

Luis Adán’s parents gather empty plastic gallons they turn into plastic sheets they sell for 30 dollars each; other residents use them to protect their homes from rain and humidity or to make some shade while selling goods on the street.

Luis Adán, his siblings and cousins are all involved in learning photographic skills, in a workshop created by John Sheedy, award winning film director of the movie “El Inmigrante”.

Sheedy has been working in this community for about a year and a half and it is about to enter the postproduction stage of his next film, “Children of the Dump”, about this community and their struggle to build a school for their children.

At the same time, Sheedy and his crew have been teaching the children of the community how to use cameras as a way to give meaning and make sense of their surroundings.

“The movie has this kids, ages 6 to 12, driving the story, the same kids participating in the workshop”, Sheddy explains, “ they are old enough to participate and yet they are not teenagers; the story has been more about their coming of age than about their circumstances’ growing up”.

Under the direction of the filmmaker, the kids have documented the recycling process, the daily life of the community and have become fascinated by the car theft operation in their neighborhood.

“The kids have access because they’re from here, they know the people participating in the operation”, Sheedy explains, “they move in this environment and we have to understand and respect that”.

This first photo exhibit was made at the No Name gallery this past Friday August 28th, the curatorial work was done by photographer David Maung, resulting in a fortunate display of portraits, intimate family moments and every-day life moments seen from a curious yet non-judgmental perspective.

“All of the pictures here where taken by us, we get together once a week to talk about what we saw”, tells Luis Adán, “we take pictures of people living in the streets, we talk to them and they tell us about getting metal and junk…we see the stolen cars being dumped nearby and PUM”.

A selection of photographs will be exhibited Friday, September 5, 2008 at The Front gallery and cultural center, located at 147 W. San Ysidro Blvd.,San Ysidro, California (Ph.(619) 428-1115)

Reception is 7 p.m and a A preview of the film will be shown, as well as a talk by the filmmaker, John Sheedy.Money generated by donations and photo sales will go toward an educational trust fund for the children.

Sheedy hopes to finish the film by the end of this year and dedicate 2009 to promoting it at film festivals, as well as continue with the traveling picture show.

“I still remember the first afternoon I went into the dump, it was this kids -now the stars of the film- who came up to me with a million questions, took me home to their families and basically adopted me…they found me”, he laughs.

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