A plan for helping children in Galen Film’s ‘The Same Heart’

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

Vineyard Haven–based filmmakers Len and Georgia Morris of Galen Films will introduce their new documentary, “The Same Heart,” at the Strand Theater in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, July 24, at 8 pm. The film, which was shown at the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize forum in Minneapolis, completes their trilogy on the plight of children worldwide.

Award-winning journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault will introduce the work and moderate a discussion following its screening, which is a benefit for Media Voices for Children, a nonprofit which advocates for children’s human rights. “The Same Heart” emphasizes levying a small tax on financial transactions called the Robin Hood tax.

The Morrises, along with the help of Petra Lent McCarron, have filmed heartrending portraits of children from many parts of the world, including the U.S. As ethicist Peter Singer points out early in the film, the countless deaths of children from poverty, disease, and starvation should not be considered that different from more publicized deaths. In depicting a joyful celebration ceremony in Kenya for a newborn girl, “The Same Heart” suggests the ominous future this child may face from pneumonia, diarrhea, tuberculosis, poor sanitation, and forced marriage. Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers, suggests former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Statistics reinforce the urgency of the issue. An estimated 6 million children die each year from preventable causes. Worldwide, it is estimated that three million children are HIV positive, and 17.8 million are orphaned by HIV/AIDS. But such grim numbers do not entirely govern the film’s narrative. A community organizer in Kenya encourages community members to work from the bottom up instead of waiting for outside help. Sister Mary Owens has helped establish an AIDS orphanage called Nyumbani Village that provides food, shelter, work, water, and land.

According to “The Same Heart,” Americans give very little to counteract poverty, and the U.S. has the most inequality among developed nations. Even a miniscule Robin Hood tax on financial transactions could generate several hundred billion dollars a year, and put the needs of children at the heart of the global financial system. “Our humanity is bound up in each other,” South African bishop Desmond Tutu says in the film’s concluding commentary.

With the completion of “The Same Heart,” Galen Films’ trilogy of documentaries is now available. The first, “Stolen Childhoods,” provides the title for the series and is narrated by Meryl Streep; it addresses how children are exploited for financial gain by working under intolerable conditions. “Rescuing Emmanuel” tells the story of a child forced to live on the streets, and shows how support can alter his life. The three documentaries, representing 20 years of work and multiple visits to many parts of the world, are available on DVD either singly or in a package.

The filmmakers have launched a crowdfunding campaign to support the release of the film at generosity.com/community-fundraising/the-same-heart-advocacy-screenings–3. For more information, visit galenfilms.com.