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Morgen gehört uns (no English title yet)

Before we get going, can we just have a word about the title. While the German one just about works, I’m not sure whether an English version has been released yet. If so, the producers should be vary wary of calling it “Tomorrow belongs to us”. A film about precocious child activists which evokes the young Nazi in lederhosen singing at the end of “Cabaret” is probably the wrong look.

Not that “activists” is necessarily the best way to describe some of the kids in the film. The main narrator, José Adolfo, is more of an entrepeneur. He set up a children’s bank in Peru where kids can bring in recyclable paper for money. Later in the film we see José Adolfo meeting up with a banker in negotiations about how children can get credit cards.

The fact that no-one mentions that credit cards may be more of a problem than solution to the real poverty that is shown in the film gives you a sense of where it coming from. The 10-year old Artur leaves his opulent house in Northern France, always accompanied by his indulgent mother to give money and food to the homeless. This is at least partly financed by paintings that he sells (presumably mainly to his family’s rich liberal friends).

Not all the participants are as comfortably off as Artur. Khloe is a black girl from the States who also helps the homeless. She creates bags of presents, in order, as she says, to “give them dignity”. Look, I know what she means and it feels almost cruel to attack the good deeds of a 13-year old, but dignity is not something that can be paternalistically donated.

Some of the other kids see the problem as being more systemic and are thus able to offer more collective solutions. Aissatou fights against child marriage in Guinea – which is actually more sinister than it sounds. It is not that children are marrying each other but that girls in their early teens are being married off to men in their thirties.

Heena is a street kid from India who is part of a collective who produce a newspaper “by and for street kids”. She spends her time interviewing kids who are forced to work, promising to make their story public. Less clear is who is financing the operation, and what its aims are (if indeed it has any conscious aims). We see a meeting with Heena with her editor when he insists she points out that the kids are working because they are poor. This is important, but not really new.

Perhaps the most interesting interviewees are a group from Bolivia who are members of a trade union for child workers. They are very much not fighting to end child labour – if they don’t work their families will starve – but for decent working conditions and an end to working hours which prevent them from attending school. Their solution is less dependent on charity than collective demonstrations.

The final section is perhaps the hardest to stomach. José Adolfo is nominated for the Child Climate prize, and so is flown to Stockholm to a chandeliered ballroom full of well-fed white people in suits who applaud the kids fighting poverty in the pause between their seventh and eight courses. The film appears to lack the sense of irony to note that maybe the homeless could be better helped by expropriating these people than the individual acts of kids like Artur and Khloe.

This is a highly frustrating film to watch, because a lot of what the kids are doing is highly impressive. And yet the message is that the problem is “adults”, not very specific adults who own most of society’s wealth, and are responsible for the living conditions of child miners in Bolivia, street kids in India and homeless people in France and the US.

Greta Thunberg does get a cameo appearance – in one of the film’s more self-aware moments, when the film brings up the contradiction of flying kids in from throughout the world to a climate conference. Greta refused to fly. Yet she is portrayed as being part of the same movement as these kids, although her understanding of which problem she is fighting is quite different.

For this reason, Morgen gehört uns is a pale shadow of, say, I Am Greta, which has a much more sophisticated portrayal of how problems generated by capitalist priorities can’t be solved by buying a homeless man a panini. It also provides a much better answer to the question that keeps popping up in your mind: “But shouldn’t you be at school?”

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