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The Life of Maikaru

October 14, 2014

Ask Maikaru Douangluxay-Cloud about his childhood and he will tell you with little emotion that it was unconventional. Hardly.

Still from Amanda Harryman's award-winning short film 'Maikaru'

Maikaru was born into Seattle’s dark world of human trafficking, drug dealing and violence. His mother was kidnapped at the age of 12. She became hooked on heroin and was forced into prostitution. At 14, she gave birth to Maikaru.  

When Maikaru was seven, he was forced into dealing crack cocaine. “The best way I could describe it was I felt like a feral child because I knew how to make crack before I knew my abc’s. I had to learn how to make good crack, fake crack, and bad crack”

Watch the film: Maikaru

'Maikaru' is an award-winning documentary short film by Amanda Harryman

His gripping story of survival is the subject of an award-winning documentary short titled “Maikaru”. The seven minute film was directed by Amanda Harryman in her directorial debut. The film has earned accolades at film festivals in Canada and the U.S. It was selected Best Documentary Short at this year’s Seattle International Film Festival, making it eligible for a possible Oscar nomination.

The Maikaru production crew at SIFF 2014.

Amanda Harryman and Maikaru got to know each when they were co-workers at the Art Wolfe Fine Art Gallery near Pioneer Square. The gallery staff would have lunch together and eventually they learned the shocking details of Maikaru’s youth. “I was just speechless,” said Amanda. “I had never met anyone like that. A product of human trafficking what does that mean?”

It meant a homeless childhood with a constant threat of physical and sexual violence. “There were a couple of incidents of violence projected at me where my sister and I were both sexually assaulted” said Maikaru. “But other than that it was always directed towards my mom.” in front of us. And we were required to keep our eyes open and watch her as an example of what would happen to us”

Director Amanda Harryman with MaikaruEventually, Harryman asked Maikaru if she could produce a documentary about him for the International Documentary Competition where filmmakers from around the world have five days, to shoot, edit and post-produce their film. Maikaru agreed thinking it would never happen. It did. Harryman and her production crew faced the challenge of telling Maikaru’s experiences without any photographs or other visuals from his life. They improvised and shot him in shadow behind a screen, using his interest in dance and artistic expression to visualize the violence and chaos.

Still, what makes the film so compelling is Maikaru telling his story to the camera, “I snuck and tucked away a little money here and there until I approached them with 15 thousand dollars in hopes of gaining my freedom.” At the time, he was ten years old. Legally, he was unable to tell the full story, but there was a confrontation and his captor came to a violent end. Maikaru, his siblings and 20 other families were freed.

Maikaru says he refused to let his past dictate his future. He graduated from high school, earned a degree from the University of Washington and is now a graduate student at Seattle Pacific University.

In the past, he often shied away from talking about his unconventional childhood.  Now, with the making of the film, he has a sense of pride, “I finally accepted hey I overcame this and growing up they’d tell me you’re nobody, you’re nobody, and you know what I am somebody.  Hey I’m a human traffic survivor. I’ll say that and this is my story. Fear is powerful but hope is stronger than fear”


Enrique Cerna

The son of Mexican immigrants, Enrique Cerna was born and raised in the Yakima Valley.  Enrique joined KCTS 9 in January, 1995. He has anchored current affairs programs, moderated statewide political debates, produced and reported stories for national PBS programs in addition to local documentaries on social and juvenile justice, the environment and Latinos in Washington State.

Enrique has earned nine Northwest Emmy Awards and numerous other honors. In June, 2013, he was inducted into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Northwest Chapter’s Silver Circle for his work as a television professional.

More stories by Enrique Cerna

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A young man who possess more than determination and perseverance. To live a life as he has and still accomplish so much is beyond remarkable. A true model of a survivor and for all the world to see.