Synopsis by Nathan Southern
Omnibus films attained renewed popularity during the 1990s and 2000s; this particular seven-episode film-a-sketch arrived during that period, and involved several top-tiered international filmmakers including John Woo, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, Emir Kusturica and three others. Each helmer was asked to shoot a segment of between 16-18 minutes in length, for UNICEF, on the subject of exploited and/or underprivileged children around the world. The package opens with "Tanza," helmed by Algerian novelist-cum-filmmaker Mehdi Charef and shot in Burkina Faso. It concerns the 12-year-old female title character - an adolescent freedom fighter - who trollops through the countryside accompanied by young male guerilla fighters who spout off deliberately nonsensical English-language dialogue. Kusturica takes the reins for the second segment, "Blue Gypsy," an overtly comical episode in the vein of Time of the Gypsies about a precocious young boy who makes the split from his alcoholic father and thieving family and goes to live in a juvenile detention center, finding it preferable to home. The third episode, helmed by co-producer Stefano Veneruso and entitled "Ciro," recalls neorealismo with its Naples-set tale of a young boy unloved and systematically neglected by his mother, who resorts to spending time with other neglected children and stealing watches, and then gets caught in the direst of ways. The fourth segment, Spike Lee's delicately-handled "Jesus Children of America," stars Hannah Hodson as Blanca, a young Brooklynite ostracized by her peers because her parents are junkies; when she learns of her HIV-positive status, her world crumbles. For the 5th episode, "Bilu and Joao," Brazilian director Katia Lund casts child actors Francisco Anawake de Freitas and Vera Fernandes as two impoverished tykes whose days involve walking around the outskirts of Sao Paulo and pulling a wooden cart, into which they pile aluminum and paper - but do so joyously, with the courage and grace of two individuals delighting in subhuman work despite the direst of circumstances. For the sixth segment, "Jonathan," Ridley Scott teams up to co-direct with daughter Jordan Scott; the episode stars David Thewlis (Naked) as an emotionally-traumatized war photographer who encounters a band of Eastern European orphans. And the closer, John Woo's "Song Song and Little Cat," studies the contrast between the lives of two young Asian girls from polar opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum: Oi Ruyi is Little Cat, an abjectly impoverished child discovered in the garbage, during infancy, by a homeless man; she grows up helping her discoverer forage for victuals until he dies, leaving her aimless and bereft. Woo cuts between her story and that of Song Song, a wealthy and pampered little girl whose story is equally tragic in its own way, as her parents are undergoing a bitter divorce. Though this film, as indicated, enlisted the support of at least two major Hollywood directors (Scott and Lee) it did encounter extreme difficulty securing U.S. theatrical and ancillary distribution, which effectively kept it out of North America in the years that immediately followed its global release.