Producer and director Edet Belzberg, 32, says that making her first film, “Children Underground,” about street children in Bucharest, was one of the greatest personal challenges she has ever faced. Viewers will immediately see why. The documentary, which won a special jury prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and an Academy Award nomination, records with almost unbearable directness the lives of abandoned Romanian children born during the Ceausescu dictatorship, which outlawed abortion and birth control. Living in a subway station, the children spend their days sniffing paint to dull their hunger pains, begging passersby for money. They group together in gangs, which often set upon the weaker members. One particularly devastating scene in the film records the children surrounding a ten-year-old girl, whom they brutally kick. The commuters hurrying by ignore her animal-like screams. Belzberg said that she made the wrenching decision not to intervene when she witnessed such horrific scenes because, she said, documenting what these children suffer would ultimately help all the children who live on the street.
“Children Underground” is Belzberg’s first film. She is now working on “Gymnasts,” about girls who competed in the 2000 Olympics.