Lost Angels trailer (2010)
If you live in LA you've no doubt driven or walked past the city's thousands of homeless people, especially if you pass through the downtown area known as Skid Row, where an estimated 11,000 homeless men and women dwell. But unless you've stopped and taken time to talk to these unfortunate individuals who call the streets home, you may not be able to humanize these men and women and their stories.
The Thomas Napper directed film Lost Angels, which premiered in June at the Los Angeles Film Festival, screens for free tomorrow evening as part of the Downtown Film Festival. The film can help give a better understanding of LA's homeless. With narration by Catherine Keener, Lost Angels puts a human face on these so readily dismissed individuals that inhabit the Skid Row area. The excellent documentary's subjects (as seen in the trailer above) include a former Olympic runner, a transgendered punk rocker, and an eccentric animal lover and her devoted companion. It respectfully tells their individual stories of what led them to this point in their lives.
Tomorrow's Downtown Film Festival free screening of this documentary, which takes place at Gladys Park on a big 50 foot outdoor screen, is special because it is being screened in the heart of Skid Row, where the film was shot and where many of its subjects live. Los Angeles community activist General Jeff, whose last name is Page and who I met recently at Amoeba Hollywood during the KRS-ONE lecture, is a key person behind this unique screening of Lost Angels. Being on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council and a resident director with Central City East/ Skid Row, Jeff works closely with LA's homeless and has firsthand insights into their plight. I caught up with the man to ask him about Lost Angels and its importance.
Amoeblog: Why is this location such an important place to screen this film?
General Jeff: Gladys Park is considered by us to be the headquarters of our community's "positive movement." I initiated the Gladys Park Improvement Project in 2008, which included a brand-new, full-court basketball court that was donated by NIKE and the LA84 Foundation, brand-new exercise equipment, chess tables, bleachers and shade umbrellas that were donated by the Department of Recreation and Parks. This was the first indication that could be seen by other community members that let them know we are serious about making a "positive" change in Skid Row. To this day, we continue to make Gladys Park the epicenter of positive programming in Skid Row. Because of the NIKE court, the community took basketball more seriously and we started the award-winning Skid Row 3on3 Streetball League, whose home is Gladys Park.
Amoeblog: Will many of the folks in the film be at Sunday's screening?
General Jeff: We have contacted many of the film's participants and do expect them to be in attendance for the Q&A, which is to follow the screening.
Amoeblog: Why do you think the average LA resident should view this film?
General Jeff: This film was directed by Thomas Napper, who also worked on The Soloist by Dreamworks. While filming in Skid Row, he realized that there were many more stories to be told and after production, got most of the film crew to come back for free and film this documentary. For too long, the non-profits and others have been speaking on behalf of the community. Something has been getting lost in translation for decades. This doc allows people from outside the community to delve deeper into many lives of human beings from various backgrounds as they truly open up to director Thomas Napper and the camera, both of whom they became comfortable with because of The Soloist. This is the Skid Row community finally starting to speak for themselves, giving incredible testimony about where they come from without the need and/or unwanted assistance of a non-profit organization. We hope that from now on, we can continue to speak for ourselves and folks outside of Skid Row can hear our pleas for help and understanding with open ears!
This event is supported by City Councilmember Jose Huizar (whose district includes Gladys Park and who will be at tomorrow's screening), City Councilmember Jan Perry, SRO Housing, and the Department of Recreation and Parks. The film will begin at approx 7:30pm but folks will start gathering at 6pm Sunday for a kick off celebration. There will also be gourmet food trucks serving free food on site and performances before and after the screening by local artists affiliated with the Skid Row Artist's Collective (SRAC). The Downtown Film Festival Los Angeles has two websites for more information: dffla.com and downtownfilmfestla.com.