By Amy R. Handler | March 11, 2013

Panhandling and homelessness often go hand-in-hand, but that’s not always the case. It’s also not conclusive that all panhandlers are physically aggressive; but when they are, it’s considered unlawful.

Director Matt Longmire’s newest film, Cardboard, explores sign-flying, panhandlers and the homeless in Seattle. Many in these populations are interviewed, and as you may imagine, everyone has a story about how and why they do what they do. Among others, Longmire also interviews a group of college-aged kids, most of whom are not compassionate to the plight of those who live and earn their livelihood in the streets.

An interesting backdrop to Cardboard, and a major subject unto itself, is Mayor of Seattle, Mike McGinn. Known for his controversial veto of a ban on aggressive panhandling in Seattle, McGinn’s veto was never overturned. McGinn’s unorthodox stance on the decriminalization of the homeless, and other issues, may very well cost him another term in office—but that’s surely fodder for another film…

While Cardboard is very interesting in parts, it’s not as strong as it could be as a whole. Perhaps this is because Longmire attempts to tackle too many issues at once. It’s not clear whether Longmire is studying the homeless—many of whom are mentally ill— the panhandlers as mentally ill, or as individuals out to rook anyone who walks by. Or is Longmire’s extremely lengthy focus on Mike McGinn his true interest for the film?

Longmire appears to very closely ally with the homeless and panhandling communities, as those victimized and misunderstood by mainstream society.
The result of this no-no in documentary filmmaking is a slanted, chastisement of mainstream society. He also places way too much emphasis on the small group of college-aged interviewees, who look upon the documentary as one big joke. Cardboard never really touches upon how the homeless might get back on track, and if this is indeed a possibility for them.

It’s my opinion that if Cardboard could be re-edited, to respond to all these issues, then it would portray what I think the filmmaker is attempting to communicate.

This film was submitted for review through our Submission for Review system. If you have a film you’d like us to see, and we aren’t already looking into it on our own, you too can utilize this service.

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