These are the stories of three young women who have sacrificed some of their lives to give over to protest. There is Rayen, who lives in Chile and joined the uprising there among the poor, who were victimised by the wealthy government and elites to put them even further into poverty, there is Hilda from Uganda who saw her family's farming livelihood destroyed by climate change and has started her own activist's movement, and there is "Pepper", a Hong Kong resident who was, like her fellow citizens, horrified when China eroded the democracy in the territory and cracked down on any form of complaint...
Now, these three women, despite what you may think in the way they are presented here, are not equivalents from three different continents. They go about their protests in different styles, and while Rayen has no problem with fighting back against the police who make it seem the bad old days of the Pinochet regime are not so far away after all, Hilda takes a more peaceful tack and spends her time clearing waterways of plastic waste when she is not trying to place pressure on the authorities to do something about an issue that is increasingly being felt in the poorer states of the planet. And Pepper, poor Pepper.
She tries her best, as do the other protestors who took to the Hong Kong streets, but if you had been following the news in the years since her activism was filmed, you would be well aware that they failed, the brutality of the Chinese authorities was too strong and many of the activists were forced to flee across the globe as refugees, the ones who were not arrested and imprisoned, that was. Or even killed - Pepper's friend, we hear, was so filled with despair that she took her own life, though how prevalent that is, is unclear, we do know China has a suicide problem, not that they admit as much, and you imagine their repression has led to those troubles in Hong Kong too.
Chile, meanwhile, is supposed to be a democracy, but the way Rayen tells it, anyone in any country in the world would just have to start pushing back against injustice to find their existence suddenly made very difficult indeed. While the working class Chileans took to the streets, they found that decades of dictatorship had trained the police to use some very unpleasant tactics, and their latest trick is to fire rubber bullets into the eyes of the protestors, or even someone who looks like they might be thinking of protesting, leaving hundreds of citizens losing their sight in one or both eyes. It's a horribly barbaric course of action, and there does not appear to be any recourse to justice on behalf of those who have been shot.
Hilda, however, is made to look as if her protest is doing good in real terms, which after a COP26 conference in 2021 that gave a "Hmm... maybe" to the question of whether the most powerful could do anything concrete to stop the climate change crisis, rings a little hollow. On the other hand, Hilda is the only one of these three women you can look up on the internet, since the other two have to preserve their anonymity: Rayen we can view, mind you, but Pepper (not her real name) is concealed under her anti-pollution mask throughout, so justifiably paranoid is she that she could be seriously injured or murdered for speaking out about her oppression. Hilda is the positive face of pressure groups, someone who has found people listening to her because she is a charismatic frontwoman and the matters she champions sound like something that could be solved if we listen to those like her. But Rayen and Pepper? Their stories make the ordinary folks feel pretty helpless, and it would be nice if this film acknowledged that, it might be the first step to improvement.
[Dear Future Children is now in UK cinemas from & 80 Odeon Cinemas 23 November 2021 for One Night Only! Click here to buy tickets.]