Tuesday, October 25, 2005


This is Macarena. I recognized her instantly when I saw her sitting at the base of a monument in Piata Victoriei, inhaling silver paint from a plastic bag. The small margin of celebrity she has achieved--at least among dedicated documentary film viewers like myself--does not appear to have changed her circumstances much. Macarena is one of the subjects of Edet Belzberg's 2000 documentary "Children Underground," about a group of street children living in the Piata Victoriei subway station, most of whom inhale a toxic paint called Aurolac to get high. It's a very troubling film, and Macarena's experience makes for some of the most heartbreaking sequences. There is an emotional investment that comes with watching someone's life unfold on camera, especially such a dramatic and painful life. I instinctively said hello to her and asked her how she was. She was in the process of getting high and it was a struggle for her to comprehend what I was saying; to focus her dark eyes on me. She smiled delightedly and jumped up when I told her I'd seen her in the film. She kissed me on both cheeks with lips encrusted with little flakes of silver paint. She has radiant skin, with a flush of color in her face that I'd like to think comes from the November chill rather than the paint fumes. She asked me if I would buy her a salad and some shoes. I said yes to the salad, no to the shoes. She wanted to know where I was staying; if she could come home with me. It is so uncomplicated to care about her in a two hour film; it is much more challenging when she emerges from the narrative and wants to move into my apartment. She asked me to take her picture, and I left her behind as gently as I could.


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