Mama Calle

Arjanne Laan's powerful and moving portrait of street children in Mexico City.

Description» Press about 'Mama Calle' » Credits »
City of Utrecht Prize for outstanding young talent, Dutch Film Festival 1990
Premio Costa Azul, Festival International de Cine de Troia, Portugal, 1991
Gold Hugo Award for best social/political documentary, Chicago International Film Festival, 1991

Screened at over 20 film festivals, a.o.:

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, 1990.

International Film Festival Rotterdam, 1991.

L' Ecran Ouvert - International Film Festival Cannes, 1991.

Edinburgh International Film Festival, 1991.

International Documentary Film Festival of Yamagata, 1991.

Valentin sniffing glue in Mama Calle


Mama Calle tells about the life of street children in one of the largest cities in the world, Mexico City. The roof of a metro-station is their home and life is tough.

'Baldy',14, and 'Nigger',9, are inseparable. Like many other children they live and work on the teeming streets, where 'Baldy' performs his fire-eating act between ceaseless streams of traffic. Others act as clowns, sell chewing gum or wash car window screens. Their faces are marked by the struggle for survival, in their eyes is a dull, cynical look.

Director Arjanne Laan followed them to their hiding places, spending nights in the cold buildings where they sleep. She saw the hunger and boredom, the lack of warmth and a home. And their flight out: glue sniffing - a flight into a shadow death. Above all she saw the courage and strength, and the often childish way they manage their lives.

A feeling of adventure or sometimes sheer boredom sometimes grips 'Baldy' and 'Nigger' and draws them to the countryside, hitching or clinging onto a train. There they try to recapture what they have lost: the simple pleasures of life, rest, family life. One of these expeditions brings them in the celebration of the Day of the Death. There, touched by the serene atmosphere, 'Baldy' dreams about a contented country life. He forgets for a moment why he, and most children like him fled: beatings, broken homes, escape from prison.

Coming back to the city is extra hard; nothing changes, and each time things seem to have got even more difficult. But 'Baldy' and 'Nigger' stick together through thick and thin, as long as they survive.

At the end of the film, before being left behind, they pose for a portrait. A poignant moment. Arjanne Laan: "Although the children knew that the attention would come to an end, they still wanted people to see how vulnerable they are. This made me feel vulnerable and helpless too".

Valentin, one of the streetkids in Mama Calle

Baldy, Valentins best pal in Mama Cale

Press about 'Mama Calle'

.... this makes Mama Calle a uniquely moving documentary, a film of dangerous beauty. As dangerous and hallucinating as the lives of the glue sniffers in Mexico-City. (De Filmkrant)

.... a film one must see. But above all it is a film that teaches how to look. (Skrien)

.... the intensity of the film and the powerful camera work make Mama Calle one of the best Dutch documentaries of the last 5 years. (film festival director Marco Muller)

.... a stirring documentary about destitute street kids in Mexico City .... strikingly beautiful imagery... outstanding cinematography editing. (Variety)

Juan, one of the streetkids in Mama Calle


Written and directed by: Arjanne Laan link

Produced by: Kaie Klaassen voor Moving Image Production

With: 'the kids' Alfredo Flores Léon - 'El Pelon', Israel Tolentino Garçia - 'El Negro’, Juan Emanuel Jimenez Flores Balentin  

Ligthing cameraman: Melle van Essen

Sound: Jesus Sanchez

Editing: Jan Dop

Music: Patricio Wang

De Humanistische Omroep Stichting Nederlands Film Fonds

MAMA CALLE is a Moving Image Production film, an assignment of TV3 Holland/ Humanistische Omroep Stichting, with contributions from, amongst others, Dutch Film Fund.

Original language: spanish

Language versions: Dutch / English / Japanese subtitled

Issued: september 1990

Running time: 62'25"

Length: 725 mtr./ 2385 ft.

Formats: 16 mm (1 : 33) / video / digital

The music from MAMA CALLE is available on CD.

copyright 1990 Moving Image Production, The Netherlands

the streetkids in Mama Calle in their hide

Valentin and Baldy, best pals in Mama Calle