A mother and child featured in Poverty in Paradise. *Photo supplied
A mother and child featured in Poverty in Paradise. *Photo supplied
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Lucinda Spurling’s new film lays bare the poverty that exists in Bermuda through intimate interviews with those living in its clutches. Poverty in Paradise, produced by advocacy group the Coalition for the Protection of Children, includes the story of a single mom who lived in a cave while seven months pregnant and a boy whose uncle was a victim of gun crime. Director Lucinda Spurling talks to The Bermuda Sun about what she describes as one of her most challenging films to date.

 

Why did you decide to work on this film with the Coalition?

I was very interested in taking up more current and relevant subjects as a filmmaker. With the recession and our related rise in violent crime, the subject matter was waiting to be tackled.

This film was challenging from beginning to end, the hardest questions were where do we start and where do we end. Making a film like this feels like opening a can of worms. I hope it does that for our audience.

 Does the film not tell us what we already know?

The film will show us something new. We can be given statistics about poverty and read articles about it for days but we won't understand poverty until we meet some of the women in the film and listen to the hard realities of women and children living poor.

One of the things that struck is that, of course, there are people who are their own worst enemy, but there are also young women who have impressed me immensely with their intelligence.

Many have raised the issue of these women making matters worse for themselves.

This documentary is meant to be a talking point so I encourage all the people discussing the issues in the film to come to the screening. A lot of talk has been flying around about the decision these women make to have children.

Yes, on the surface of it — it seems crazy to bring children into the world when you cannot support yourself. All the critics out there are answering their own question — it makes no logical sense so why does it continue to happen...the answer is deep social problems, lack of education of women and men around these issues, lack of family support and guidance. Often these mothers have had difficulties being successful in other areas of their life and being mothers to their children is one area where they do feel worthy. Their children love them and need them, something that perhaps is lacking from other sources in these women's lives. With all the critics out there, everyone neglects to mention that the children who are products of these decisions are innocent and if people continue to condemn how they came into the world instead of working on understanding why such decisions are made and how to prevent them from being repeated, they will do the same thing, and the cycle will repeat.

Who have you/the Coalition interviewed as part of this film?

The film is about poverty among women and children. There are other communities of young men, indigent and elderly that also suffer, but this film is about the women and the children who are our future. Specifically the women in the film are clients of the Coalition. We did not go beyond the Coalition's clients because we did not have access. It takes a lot of bravery to get on camera and talk about how you cannot provide for your children and therefore we only had that kind of access with women we have relationships with. In this way the film is a very honest reflection of society, we made the film about women who came to the Coalition for help. We also interviewed professionals to give us some perspective on the societal forces that are creating the situations these women find themselves in.

What does the film reveal to be the greatest causes of the wealth gap/poverty in Bermuda

It is more complicated than that. I think the film will give viewers some perspective on the last twenty years, the correlation between economic trends and crime.

Does the film come up with some positive solutions to the problems?

People earning below the poverty line should not have to pay payroll tax.

Minimum wage. Better enforcement of child support. Stop locking women up for non-payment of debt. Have more fluid Financial Assistance awards. With less rigid policies — it will make room for new business models — Coalition micro loans etc.

Every individual should do their part.

Do you think this film can make a difference?

If we can get a few people to give back, I think it is worth it. I think Bermuda has to admit the problem before we can move on to the solutions. Just educating people is helpful.