The Lost Boy - The journey of the Haitian footsoldier
The Lost Boy is the story of a man who was sent away from his home to find a better life in Australia, but who has always longed for the life he left behind. A highly confronting film, it will engage audiences in an emotionally-charged conversation about third world poverty, international child adoption, religious motivation and the fundamental importance of families, seen through the eyes of a Haitian man in Australia.
Living in abject poverty on the streets of Haiti's capital Port au Prince, Marie Lucie struggled to feed and protect her three small children.
But the paster at the Haitian Christian Mission (HCM) offered an alternative: he would find adoptive parents for the children in Australia, where they could have hope for the future and all the material things Marie Lucie couldn't provide.
She loved her children and was utterly stricken at the thought of losing them, but she wanted to do the best thing for them. The pastor arranged for the two youngest to be adopted by Steve and Debbie Rasmussen, a couple from Ballarat. An evangelical Christian family with connections to the Mission, they already had five children of their own. Renamed Timothee and Rebecca, Marie Lucie's youngest children were both under the age of two, and quickly settled in to their new home. We meet Steve and Debbie, who tells us how much she loves tiny, dependent babies.
A year or two later, Steve and Debbie agreed to adopt Marie Lucie's oldest child, Jonas. Jonas was now six. Steve and Debbie went to Haiti to collect him, and on the way home took him to Disneyland for a treat.
Steve and Debbie show us their family photographs, which depict a large family. They tell us about the difficulty they had raising Jonas, who proved to be troublesome. At six, he wasn't one of the dependent little babies Debbie loves so much.
Jonas struggles to explain his childhood sense of being alien, and the complicated relationship with his adoptive family. There are school photographs where Jonas is the only dark face in a sea of white children. The memories are clearly painful as he talks about the time he spent at school trying to defend himself from racist attacks.
Jonas started to go off the rails, but Debbie was determined that she would succeed with him at all costs, and for a while she home-schooled him as a way of keeping him under control. He was made to sit at a desk under the stairs for six hours a day, and was only allowed to see his friend once a week for two hours.
Jonas's relationship with the Rasmussens reached breaking point when he was a teenager. As Christians Steve and Debbie believe in forgiveness, but Jonas tested them, and ultimately they couldn’t cope. He was passed on to a series of Christian foster homes. But one by one each of these families also gave up on him.
The continuous rejection sent Jonas spiralling into crisis. These families preached forgiveness and love, but their responses to him were anything but loving. Even his two closest school mates weren’t allowed to associate with him.
At the age of fifteen Jonas was kicked out of his last foster home. He stayed briefly in a men’s shelter, a child among adults, before taking to the streets. He takes us to the places he used to sleep: insubstantial shelters, open stretches of beach. He explains how he drank with homeless people but couldn’t identify with any of them – he wasn’t a white Australian, but neither was he a black Australian: he was truly displaced.
His emotions get the better of him as he recounts his battle with drugs and alcohol. Young, defeated, beaten, addicted, unwanted and unloved, he felt that he was a man without a future.
But when he was in his early twenties, Jonas's girlfriend had a child, and this momentous event changed his whole attitude to life. He found salvation in the birth of his child and slowly learnt to become a parent, whilst fighting his way out of addiction and self-destruction. He found work in the building industry and learned a trade. Although he and his girlfriend didn't stay together, Jonas stayed in touch with her and his son, and later met and married Ada, with whom he has two more children. Against all the odds, Jonas has established a loving family life.
No sooner had Jonas re-established links with his Haitian family than, in January 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, centred on the capital Port au Prince where his family lived. Had he lost them again? Jonas could get no news of them, and flew back to Haiti in a state of utter desperation.
And what does he want most of all? To be able to talk to his mum. They don't share a language, so he must learn some Creole. For his mum to understand that she can ask him anything, and he will tell her the truth. That he understands she loved him and just wanted the best for him. That he's OK.
And in the end Jonas says 'Adoption shouldn't happen. In Haiti, when I was six, that was the last place where I knew who I was.'