A Life-Changing Experience: Documentary film ‘Something You Can Call Home’ raises awareness about homelessness
For most people, homelessness plays a minor role in day-to-day life. Those stricken with the shackles of poverty are merely nameless faces one attempts to avoid eye contact with while venturing out of the supermarket parking lot with a backseat full of groceries; they’re a set of anonymous statistics. However, the truth that these people are human-beings with aspirations and personalities, whose lives were somehow derailed, cannot be denied.
One of the founding members of the Cucalorus’ Artists in Residence program and documentarian filmmaker, Rebecca Kenyon, strives to paint an intimate picture of homelessness with her film, “Something You Can Call Home.” The films will host public screening across town, as well as private screenings for the Youthbuild, LINC and WIA programs.
Having moved to Wilmington from London in 2012, the philanthropic cinephile currently resides in Durham. She first came into contact with the Cuclaorus Film Festival director, Dan Brawley, after being introduced to UK director Hope Dickson Leach, a member of Cucalorus’ ambassadors council. “After a Skype chat I had with Brawley, I just had a good feeling that there was an affinity with what we both believe in,” Kenyon explains.
Kenyon researched the evolving economic crisis in Wilmington—an area in which many are given a one-way bus ticket and the address of local shelter. She wanted to expose the untold stories of homelessness, and almost immediately began contacting local non-profits, such as Vigilante Hope and Phillippians 3 Ministries. As well, she began venturing the streets and frequenting local shelters, uncovering the lives of the forgotten. “I found nothing but openness, and people being really welcoming,” she describes.
With a camera on her shoulder and a compassionate heart, the filmmaker cultivated relationships, honing in on the stories of a mother, a student and a recovering alcoholic. She chronicles their ups and downs as they struggle with living under bridges, receiving housing and being unable to maintain it, and rejection letters from potential employers who deem them too qualified. Delicately balancing the seriousness of the topic with the innate humor that these people—even in their darkest hour—hold within themselves, “Something You Can Call Home” gives the homeless an identity, something which their financial status had largely taken.
“It’s been a life-changing experience,” Kenyon asserts. “I think what it’s done for me, and what I hope it will do for audiences, is put a real face to homelessness. It’s not a statistic; something overwhelming [that makes] you think you can’t make a difference.”
Kenyon completed “Something You Can Call Home,” fiscally supported by the Southern Documentary Fund, in 2013. Kenyon’s own production company, Mote Dust Films, also supported the film. It premiered at the Cucalorus Film Festivallast year. Since, it has made its way to Elon University, Bethany United Methodist Church in Durham, Goshen Baptist Church in Leland, The Lord’s Church and Vigilant Hope in Wilmington. A few weeks ago it screened at UNC Charlotte, where it garnered the praise of an audience member who had previously worked on Skid Row in LA.
The film is currently fostering a partnership with Vigilante Hope with the intention of producing screening kits. Each kit will be a food container which holds postcard that lists the nonprofits and shelters found in the city of the film’s screening. As well, it will contain toiletries and non-perishable snacks that inspired attendees will hopefully use as an ice-breaker for getting to know a person who’s struggling. It will also give insights into letter-writing in support of policy change and generating more affordable housing.
As well, the film has confirmed screenings with the Charlotte Film Society, Urban Ministries Charlotte, Speak Up Magazine, and Genesis Home in Durham that will occur in October and November. Kenyon also has some special plans for the film in conjunction with Working Films in Wilmington. Ultimately, “Something You Can Call Home” thrives due to its ability to start discussions. “I see people whose attitudes have been changed from watching [the film], which is incredible,” Kenyon tells.
She’s also found that a great impetus for getting the dialogue started is to inquire one-word impressions as soon as the lights go up. These first reactions range from sobering to disturbing to humbling to cyclical. Part of its capacity to jumpstart discourse comes from its personable nature.
“I prefer to make films that are noteworthy,” Kenyon details her methodology. “It can be a serious subject, but you don’t have to be hit over the head with it. And it doesn’t have to be all melancholy.”
The screening will be attended by people featured in the film, as well as affiliates with a number of local non-profits—Jeremy Hardy from Vigilant Hope; Jerry Holiday, the executive director of Philliphians 3: Minstires; and Sylvia Colbert from the #2 Thrift Store and Food Bank. They will all be there to divulge information on how to get the ball rolling on ameliorating the ongoing homelessness situation. All screenings are free.
Something You Can Call Home
King Hall Auditorium, UNCW
Wednesday, April 23rd, 7 p.m.
1007 Evangeline Dr., Leland
Thursday, April 24th, 7 p.m.
815 Princess St.
Friday, April 25th, 7 p.m.
Jo Ann Carter Harrelson Center
20 N. 4th St.
Monday, April 28th, 5 p.m.