U Roberto Romano

Film & Video

The Harvest/La Cosecha

THE HARVEST is the story of the children who work as many as 12 hours a day six months a year in the burning hot sun, without the protection of child labor laws. These children are not toiling in the fields in some far away land. They are working here, in our back yard, in America.

Every year hundreds of thousands of migrant child farmworkers in the US journey from their homes through 48 states. From the scorching sun of the Texas onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards, from the heat of the Florida tomato fields to the damp cherry trees in Oregon. These children are American citizens. All are working to help their families survive while sacrificing the birthright of childhood: play; stability; school.

The film profiles 3 of them as they work through the 2009-10 harvests. Whose families will be “lucky” enough to get work? Which families will be separated? Will there be enough work to sustain them? Will any manage to keep their dreams alive?

• Zulema Lopez, a young 12 year-old, can only remember working in the fields. One of her earliest childhood memories is of her mother teaching her how to pick and clean strawberries. Having attended 8 schools in the last 8 years she continually fails academically and is afraid she won’t make it into high school. When asked what her dreams are she shakes her head and says she has none. Her mother considers an extreme sacrifice to save Zulema from the cycle of poverty that has plagued three generations of migrants.

• Perla Sanchez, 14, tries to remain hopeful after seeing her brother die in a hospital waiting room because he lacked insurance. “I would at least have liked to see him die in a hospital room,” she says sadly. She dreams of becoming a lawyer to help people just like herself and her family. Her worst fear is that something will happen to her parents. The devastating reality of migrant life and a tumultuous summer will leave Perla simply longing for home.

• Victor Huapilla is a hard-working 15 year-old living in Florida. Given the climate, there is fieldwork all year long and the constant availability of crops to harvest locally means that he works day in and day out, every day of the year. To help support his parents and 4 sisters; Victor has had to make harvesting, not school, his current, and likely future, focus. He tells us “I won’t leave the fields unless my parents come with me.”

The verité footage of the children and their year of toil will be augmented by the children having the chance to speak for themselves about their lives.

Shot in 8 states, the film reveals the drama of these children’s determination to find hope within their hardship. THE HARVEST/LA COSECHA boasts unparalleled access to life on farms and in the camps across this country and gives us the opportunity to connect with these children who sacrifice their childhood to feed us, and more importantly to them, to feed their families and themselves.

The Dark Side of Chocolate

The Dark Side of Chocolate is a documentary about the continued allegations of trafficking of children and child labor in the international chocolate industry.

While we enjoy the sweet taste of chocolate, the reality is strikingly different for African children.

In 2001 consumers around the world were outraged to discover that child labor and slavery, trafficking, and other abuses existed on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast, a country that produces nearly half the world’s cocoa. An avalanche of negative publicity and consumer demands for answers and solutions soon followed.

Two members of US Congress, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Representative Eliot Engel of New York, tackled the issue by adding a rider to an agricultural bill proposing a federal system to certify and label chocolate products as “slave


The measure passed the House of Representatives and created a potential disaster for Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland Mars, Hershey’s, Nestle, Barry Callebaut, Saf-Cacao and other chocolate manufacturers. To avoid legislation that would have forced chocolate companies to label their products with ”no child labor” labels (for which many major chocolate manufacturers wouldn’t qualify), the industry fought back and finally agreed to a voluntary protocol to end abusive and forced child labor on cocoa farms by 2005.

The chocolate industry fought back. Ultimately, a compromise was reached to end child labor on Ivory Coast cocoa farms by 2005.

In 2005 the cocoa industry failed to comply with the protocol’s terms, and a new deadline for 2008 was established.

In 2008 the terms of the protocol were still not met, and yet another deadline for 2010 was set.

And in 2010?

Almost a decade after the chocolate companies, concerned governments and specially foundations spent millions of dollars in an effort to eradicate child labor and trafficking in the international cocoa trade, has anything changed?

Miki Mistrati and U Roberto Romano launch a behind-the-scenes investigation and verify if these allegations of child labor in the chocolate industry are present today.


Stolen Childhoods

Stolen Childhoods is the first feature documentary on global child labor ever produced. The film features stories of child laborers around the world, told in their own words.

Children are shown working in dumps, quarries, brick kilns. One boy has been pressed into forced labor on a fishing platform in the Sea of Sumatra, a fifteen-year-old runaway describes being forced into prostitution on the streets of Mexico City, while a nine-year-old girl picks coffee in Kenya to help her family survive.

The film places these children’s stories in the broader context of the worldwide struggle against child labor. Stolen Childhoods provides an understanding of the causes of child labor, what it costs the global community, how it contributes to global insecurity and what it will take to eliminate it.

Shot in eight countries (Brazil, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal and the United States), the film includes slave and bonded labor footage never seen before. It has framing interviews with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (the leading legislative advocate for global action to eliminate child labor) and human rights advocates for children: Bruce Harris, Pharis Harvey, Inderjit Khurana, Wangari Maathai and Kailash Satyarthi.

The film shows best practice programs that remove children from work and put them in school, so that they have a chance to develop as children and also have a chance of making a reasonable living when they grow up. Stolen Childhoods challenges the viewer to help break the cycle of poverty for the 246 million children laboring at the bottom of the global economy.


Human Rights Watch: Fingers to the Bone

Take a look at the Human Rights Watch short “Fingers to the Bone: Child Farmworkers in the US”.

“The United States is failing to protect hundreds of thousands of children engaged in often grueling and dangerous farmwork. Current federal law permits children under age 18 to work for hire in agriculture at far younger ages, for far longer hours, and in far more hazardous conditions than in any other industry. Footage by U. Roberto Romano.”

- Human Rights Watch

Click here to visit the Human Rights Watch Youtube channel