“The Same Heart”: Helping children by ending poverty

Len Morris working with children on "The Same Heart," his newest film with his wife Georgia. —Photo by Steve Button

The Same Heart, Len and Georgia Morris’s latest documentary about children’s rights, will benefit this weekend from SHINE, a special three-day fundraising event in which 12 artists are selling their work at the West Tisbury home of Patricia Cliggott. Ms. Cliggott is the founder of Lovingkindnessmv, an organization that aids others, and a portion of the weekend’s sales will go to support completion of The Same Heart.

The film is the Morrises’ third documentary about abuses of the world’s children. The specific issue it addresses is how to end the poverty that underlies many, if not most, of the abuses children are subjected to. Tracing the visit of community organizer Geoffrey Bakuya to his home village, Shivagala, the film focuses on children in western Kenya. Many children in the village are raising themselves because their relatives have been lost to HIV/AIDS, and hunger is widespread.

“If you have the same heart in the whole world, the rich nations to support the poor nations, not exploit them, this is something we would like to see,” says Mr. Bakuya, whose words help provide the title for the documentary. Set in the background of his Kenyan village, The Same Heart establishes poverty as the problem underlying most others, with the world’s children, including some in the U.S., starving at the rate of 20,000 per day. Seven Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are interviewed. Vineyard summer resident and TV journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault narrates the documentary.

After exploring the issue of child labor in Stolen Childhoods (2004) and the homelessness of street children in Rescuing Emmanuel (2009), in The Same Heart the Morrises turn to the question of how to end the poverty underlying these issues. The filmmakers’ odyssey dates back to 1998, when Mr. Morris’s friend Robin Romano, the late New York photojournalist, contacted him about doing a film on child labor. “Len dove in, and we never looked back,” says Ms. Morris. “We got hooked on children’s rights.”

“We’ve come to understand that our aid system is broken,” says Mr. Morris. “It’s the byproduct of pushing poverty to the bottom of the pile.” The answer that The Same Heart proposes is a “Robin Hood” tax, in which financial transactions worldwide would be taxed a small percentage to fund poverty programs.

In addition to Patricia Cliggott’s wearable art clothing, yak blankets and crystal jewelry, work by 10 other Vineyard artists will be for sale at Ms. Cliggott’s West Tisbury home. Lisa Magnarelli Magden will have charcoal drawings and wood pieces on display, and Susan Norton will sell her organic skincare products. Notecards from oil paintings by Lynn Whiting will be available, as well as handwoven cotton towels by Suzy Zell. Other products include Lily K. Morris’s large format landscape photos, Lily Jane Morris’s oil landscapes, Aquinnah Witham’s jackets made of Vietnamese silk and linen, Maria Hurwitz’s multi-media landscapes, Elizabeth Germain’s blessed rosemary oil, and Eric Carlsen’s crystals from Brazil and Madagascar. Maine artist Maisie Broom will join her Island colleagues to offer saltwater silk clothing, died leather, marbled canvas, and textile heliographic printings.

Mr. and Ms. Morris plan to record the film’s narration over the next two weeks, complete the sound mix with Jim Parr, and then begin distribution, including to organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They have also raised money for the project on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

SHINE will take place Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 11, 12, and 13, at 129 Indian Hill Rd. from 10 am to 8 pm. Along with their colleague Petra Lent McCarron, one of the film’s producers, the filmmakers will show a trailer from The Same Heart and answer questions daily during the event. For more information, go to thesameheart.com or lovingkindnessmv.com.