Here’s one documentary we can’t wait to watch. Living with Dead Hearts is a film about China’s kidnapped children by first time director Charlie Custer (of ChinaGeeks fame) and his wife Leia Li.
As many as 70,000 children are kidnapped and sold in China each year. This film follows three sets of parents in their struggles to locate their missing children.
The Liu family, whose two year old son was kidnapped, uses the internet to spread awareness of their case. They also band together with other parents to promote their cases offline, but with little money, little help from police, and little chance of success, they’re left to spend much of their time thinking about how their family has been torn apart by traffickers.
The Lei family, whose 12-year-old daughter disappeared mysteriously, fights apathy and incompetence on the part of local police and school officials in an attempt to get to the bottom of their daughter’s case. Police failed to check surveillance tapes that might have revealed the girl’s kidnappers until after the tapes had been deleted, and the Leis are stymied at every turn as they attempt to get the authorities to take some interest in their daughter’s case.
Mr. Yuan, whose 15 year old son was likely sold into slave labor, takes matters into his own hands by raiding illegal factories, rescuing enslaved children, and spreading the word amongst workers about his missing son. The film follows him on one such rescue mission, but Yuan’s hopes are dashed when he fails to discover any new clues. He, too, says that police have done little to help him find his son, but together with other parents who have also lost children, he has rescued more than a hundred child slaves.
The film focuses primarily on the experiences of the parents and what the loss of a child does to a family, but it also delves into what happens to the children after they’re kidnapped. An adult male who was kidnapped and sold as a toddler in the 1980s tells the story of how he was raised in the household of a family that purchased him. A Chinese journalist shares the tale of how he uncovered a massive scandal in which local Chinese government officials were found to be forcibly confiscating children and selling them to orphanages, where they were then adopted by unwitting foreign parents. And China’s only independent rescue center for street children breaks down how kids live when they’re sold onto the street.
Living with Dead Hearts is a sober, honest look at a humanitarian tragedy bubbling just beneath the surface of the world’s fastest-growing superpower.