Homelessness is a major social issue of our time, and it’s only getting worse, as anyone who has recently driven by a freeway overpass can attest. There’s a gigantic stigma surrounding homelessness, whether it be about cleanliness, drugs, or mental illness. The homeless are one of the last few groups of people that society doesn’t have a problem putting down.
A magical quality of cinema is that it can give us a window into what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Melissa Gregory Rue’s documentary Live Out Loud does just that with three homeless people who live in Portland, Oregon. Sumaiyya Evans, David Boston, and John McDonald are each given the opportunity to make a short film for the BCCTV company, in conjunction with Bud Clark Commons, the local social service center.
During the course of following the three subjects while they make their films, we hear about their harrowing stories on how and why they are homeless. Evans was sexually abused as a child and turned to drugs to deal with the emotional pain. It led to her being on the streets as a sex worker, and later she was diagnosed with severe mental illness. Boston’s parents died when he was young, something that he still struggles to talk about. His remaining family members turned their backs on him, so Boston ended up on the streets. McDonald has a family who could never accept him for being gay, so they kicked him out of the house at a time when he needed them the most.
“…harrowing stories on how and why they are homeless.”
The stories in Live Out Loud are heartbreaking and give something for people to think about before they cast judgment on others who are less fortunate. McDonald quite profoundly states, “You shouldn’t be defined by what your job is because if you are, then you’re not doing life right.” I believe that he’s spot on here. Unfortunately, we as a society so often tend to define people by what they do for a career. We assume that people are great if they’re a doctor or a President, but we have no idea who they truly are behind closed doors.
My time on this Earth (and the sociology minor in me) has led me to think that we all have both good and bad traits but need to do a better job of replacing hate with love and empathy. A wise puppet once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” The three subjects are the embodiments of that quote.
Live Out Loud is by no means a perfect movie, though. There are times when it is slow, with its fly-on-the-wall style not capturing much of interest. Plus, the jazz soundtrack just wasn’t for me. Nonetheless, it is an important film for the reasons I’ve outlined. There needs to be more programs like this for the homeless (besides places for them to stay) because you can see how enthusiastic they are when given a project that ignites their imagination and creativity.
Legendary comedian George Carlin once had a bit about turning all golf courses into shelters for the homeless. I wish that we could do something as grand as that, but things like Bud Clark Commons/BCCTV’s homeless movie project are a good start.
"…an important film..."