During the past twenty years since completing "If the Mango Tree Could Speak," I’ve often wondered what happened to each of the children? How have their early experiences of violence and war helped shape who they’ve become as adults? Are they bitter? Do memories and nightmares haunt them? How have they each dealt with the enormous losses they suffered at such a young age?
I’ve kept in touch with about half the kids over the years, and now I’ve located the rest. The four from Guatemala all still live there. Of the six Salvadorans, two stayed in El Salvador, three immigrated to the US and one to Australia. Some are single, others are married with children; some finished college, others never went to school. But all have grappled, in one way or another, with the losses they experienced as children surrounded by war. Finding out how they have done so, what choices they have made, and their thoughts and feelings about their earlier years is the purpose of making the follow up interactive web documentary.
The new project cannot help but be in part a story about immigration. Each character made a decision: to stay in their home country or to leave. How are each of them coping? Have there been reconciliation, justice, peace in their homelands? Have those in the US been welcomed as immigrants? Who do these people trust to share their stories with? What will they tell their children about their own childhoods growing up surrounded by intense conflict and their decision about why they either stayed or left?
In the original film, I asked who was winning in the battle between fear and hope? I wondered if the children’s spirits had been crushed and if their scars would be permanent. Now, with the benefit of time passed, I am eager to peer deeper into how individuals are profoundly marked by early experiences, as well as to reveal the strength of character that allows them to carry on with their lives.