Maria has been living on the streets of Bolivia since she was a young teen. She entered into the dark, dangerous world of sex trafficking after being raped as a 12-year-old.
Now a young mother, she is determined to try and get off the streets and raise her young son. But she continues to be drawn back to her old ways of addiction and her old friends from the streets, despite the impact it may have on her, her son or her future.
I grew up in Bolivia, a society where the deep contrast between indigenous and European, rich and poor, and the consequences of this long clash are part of everyday life. Poverty most affects the indigenous population, women, and children in particular, in both rural areas and cities.
|Tupac Mauricio Saavedra|
Tupac is a cinematographer, journalist and documentary filmmaker. He has produced documentaries and shorts videos for Frontline World, Time/CNN, Yes Magazine, and LPB from Mexico, India, Cuba, Peru, Brazil, and Bolivia.
He has also worked as a cameraman for several award-winning documentary producers and independent filmmakers. Tupac received his Masters degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. He is passionate about human rights, the environment, martial arts and music.
I spent years documenting the gas wars, the rise of the first indigenous president and different social issues throughout my country, but I do not think I truly understood the depth in which social disparities impact lives until I learned about the young women in the Little Princess film.
Their stories brought me to a closer emotional understanding of how humans can be deeply wounded, struggle to live and survive through real trauma, and what happens when the needs of thousands of people, particularly children, fall through the cracks.
I spent months filming in the group homes and on the street, but gaining trust was not easy. In order to make an honest film, I had to spend time hanging out and getting to know the girls I wanted to document. The process was a two-way street.
The girls were just as curious about me, and what was I doing there, as I was curious about them. The experience was fun, sweet and heartbreaking at times, and I was genuinely open to bonding with them. After a while I was no longer hearing these stories as if they came from a subject for a film but from friends, people I cared about.
Looking into their eyes and feeling their emotions had a different weight on me. In this context, I could not help but change and rethink what it meant to me to be a filmmaker. Why was I doing these kinds of stories. While I learned about their life experiences, I learned so much about how to listen with an open heart and empathy.
With the Little Princess I am not only trying to convey the life journey of a former street girl like Maria, but also the emotions I felt while making this film. My goal is for the story to speak not just for one person but also for thousands of young girls in the world who are forced into sexual exploitation to survive.
My hope by sharing the story of Maria is that we can understand that there is more to anyone struggling with addiction and recovering from trauma than what we think. I hope we can feel empathy for those who suffer and understand that our privilege comes with a cost to many who have to struggle to survive and that we are all part of this social fabric.
This project reminded me why I love making movies, believe in this art form and cherish the ability to touch others and make a difference with my work.