Oscars 2022: two directors want to invite homeless people to accompany them on the red carpet

Jon Shenk and Pedro Kos, nominated for the documentary “Life Without a Roof” on the homeless crisis in Los Angeles, hope to come accompanied by some of their interlocutors.

Once a year, Hollywood welcomes the stars and glitter of the Oscars ceremony, but every night hundreds of homeless people sleep on the sidewalks of one of the most famous districts of Los Angeles.

These two worlds, neighbors and yet poles apart, should collide at the end of March. The directors of a documentary devoted to the fate of the homeless in the United States, in the running for these prestigious trophies, intend to invite some of their interlocutors to walk the red carpet with them for the evening.

“Hopefully on the day of the ceremony, we can put some emphasis on this cohabitation and draw attention to this humanity that is, literally, across the street and that we have all ignored for too long. “, launches to AFP Pedro Kos, co-director of the documentary ‘Des Vies Sans Toit’. “We cross our fingers so that we can come with two or three of them,” adds his comrade Jon Shenk.

From classical dance to the street

The short film, broadcast on Netflix, follows the journey of a dozen homeless people in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle over the space of three years. It shows in detail their daily life, their struggle to survive on the streets and their hopes of escaping it one day.

Among them are Luis Rivera Miranda, a dog friend in his forties who embarks on a love affair with a fellow homeless man, and Ronnie Willis, known as “Futuristic Astaire”, who dances for tourists along Hollywood Boulevard so he can get away from it all. to buy food.

“He has an extraordinary story. He is someone who has trained as a classical dancer, who danced with Janet Jackson, who choreographed Sisqo’s ‘Thong Song’ and who unfortunately went through difficult times”, underlines Pedro Kos .

“They are our neighbours”

For the directors, a large part of the problem of the homeless stems from the fact that far too many people see them in a dehumanized way and convince themselves that they are responsible for their own misfortune.

The homeless people interviewed in the film, however, explain that they arrived on the street because of disabilities, rejection by their families after declaring themselves transgender or after depression caused by the attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I think it comes from our own fears of suffering the same fate”, analyzes Jon Shenk. “We hope that the film can offer a new point of view… Let’s remember who we are talking about, these are Americans, they are our neighbors, they have rights, they are people”, insists- he.

The double pain of homeless women

The directors took the time to earn the trust of their subjects. Rather than interviewing them point-blank, they began by installing their cameras in shelters where they passed a “vulnerability assessment”, launching the recording before leaving the room to allow them to express themselves more freely. .

One of the most poignant moments in the documentary is captured when a homeless woman complains to a social worker that she was once again beaten by a man named Mike.

“For women, sexual violence is all too real,” Shenk said. “I don’t think we’ve met a woman who doesn’t have a story related to that,” he says.

Enjoying the “moment of attention” that is the Oscars

The two directors do not have a miracle solution to the problem that undermines the entire West Coast of the United States (150,000 homeless people are counted in California alone) but they believe that eliminating the red tape in aid programs would already be a good start.

“There is no doubt for us that there is a crisis of humanity right now in the United States,” says Jon Shenk. At the Oscars, “we hope to use this tiny moment of attention to our tiny little film to open a conversation that allows people to have a point of view that they would not have had otherwise”.

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Oscars 2022: two directors want to invite homeless people to accompany them on the red carpet