GER | 2016 | Documentary | 78 min.
Language Ger, En, Port, Khmer
Production Coountries USA, GER, RSA, AUS, BRA, THA
Filmmakers Jeff Arak, Roger Arnold, Gil Bartz, Susanne Bohlmann, Alexis Dominguez, George Evatt, Abigail Spindel
Logline Living their entire private lives in public view, no door to close no curtain to draw. From 5 minutes past midnight to 5 minutes past the following midnight we join in their routines and techniques for survival. Cape Town, Sydney, São Paulo, New York, Berlin and Bangkok move next to eachother on just one day.
It's New Year's Eve.
As we recycle, beg and forage the rest of the world celebrates behind.
Synopsis Do the homeless people of the world share a culture more similar than they share with the societies they live in? How does the struggle for survival differ on the streets of Berlin, New York, Cape Town, and Bangkok? Is a man without culture, because cultural participation is denied? How much individualism is allowed by poverty? We follow a day in the lives of homeless people. We see each day from sunrise to sunset, follow then through the city, and see them eat, sleep and fight their environment. But it‘s not just any day - it‘s the same all over the world - on six continents: New Year’s Eve - for us a symbol of celebration and for party, friends, new beginning and looking to the future - for our protagonist it’s just another day to survive.
We spend 24 hours in „their shoes“, as an observer, without any interference or manipulation. We do not intervene or direct and remain invisible, we see and hear, we document the reality, as difficult as it may be. And with the hard cut between Berlin, Bangkok, New York, Sao Paulo, Cape Town and Sydney, this day will be an exciting, emotional and genuine snapshot society.
The Voyeur, we are and should be. We watch people who must wear their private space in public view. We are educated not to gawk, to look politely away, to say nothing. We feel uneasy when begged or cross the road to pass a homeless person. We look the other way, ignore their words, which rise up from by below us, we avoid any eye contact. But through the work and research for this film, one thing was quite clear: homeless people, poor people don’t want to be ignored. They want to tell their story. If you can look through them, they don’t exist- they just disappear. Everyone wants to mean something, wants to have a name; needs legitimacy.
We need to look inside. We get to know Maria from New York, Pao from Thailand, Cecil from Cape Town, Shirley from São Paulo, Scott from Sydney and Angelika & Ramon from Berlin. They all have their story and their reasons for being where they are: bad luck, bad beginnings, illness and human error. But it is all somewhat familiar; their everyday routines seem to echo ours own - get up, wash, eat, and work. Whether in the heat of Cape Town or in frozen Berlin - the day must be faced. „A day in their shoes“ shows us that cultures, climates and origin do not differ from each other, but just the fact that people without home rarely celebrate when a new year begins...
Director´s Note It began as many things do, in a profound conversation masquerading as banal small talk. “The houses are different here, it changes the mood” the context or reason for the statement is not important, what is is that it led me to a consideration: if you take all the comfort and trappings of culture from human beings, even the most basic of a roof over the head, do they become more similar. Does the beggar on the streets of New York share more parallels in their daily existence with their counterpart on the streets of Rio than those tending to the culture that surrounds them both?
Honestly I don’t know. When a homeless person; whose grimy hands fill me with suspicion; whose eyes suggest the possibility of a life long friendship with the right encouragement, approaches me I, like many, often behave without charity or kindness. My strategy for coping with this faceless mass of people has changed over the years. From the idealist with a kind word and unconditional giving I am become a cynical, ignorer, guilty at the confusion of emotions any such meeting evokes.
It was time to exorcize my old and heartless self.
Cecil / Afrika Cecil lives in Cape Town. He is 28 years old and well educated. As a child, he went to a boarding school in Cape Town, far from his family in Johannesburg. After graduating, he returned to live with his parents and brothers. But the financial situation was pervasive. Everyone was struggling against each other. Violence finally erupted and Cecil took flight to Cape Town. Here he has no one and nothing.
Shirley / Südamerika Shirley was born and raised in her city, Sao Paulo. She has lived on the street for 35 years. She is 52. She has three daughters from whom she is estranged. Shirley started to take drugs and drink alcohol at 12 years of age. When she needed money to finance her addiction she prostituted herself and committed petty theft, leading her to 9 short prison terms. Ashamed, and wanting to unburden her family, she left her home, her daughters and took to a life on the streets. Now she pulls a large wooden cart with four stray dogs riding it through the city. They are her family now. She survives by collecting materials to recycle, stripping the copper from wires and searching through rubbish for bottles and cans.
Maria / Nordamerika Maria lives in New York. She used to have a job as a cashier in a supermarket. It wasn‘t enough to pay her rent. Her landlord evicted her violently. Maria says she tries most days to find a job, but with no fixed address it is almost impossible. She has a friend who is also homeless, she calls him Angel. Recently she has slept in a 24 hour internet cafe.
Scott / Australien Scott was an actor in Sydney. He played theatre, and when he got a role on television he felt like a „glorified prostitute“. He fell in love with Greta, who taught him to play the piano. Scott could not cope with social conventions and the monotony of normal existence and took to travelling. He toured around Australia and then made it round Europe, sleeping rough as he went. When he came back to Sydney Greta had had a stroke and could no longer speak. She died a year later. Deeply sad and guilty, he went home to his mother and lived there for several years until she too died. His Aunt then died as did his dog; „instead of writing a Country and Western song“ Scott turned to beer and spirits. When looking at this skinny, slightly frail man it‘s hard to imagine but his 70 kilos rose to 120kg. Scott once more began to travel and tried to find a way out of addiction. When he returned to Sydney he had nothing, he crashed on friends‘ couches until he used up all patience and compassion. Now he‘s alone and homeless.
Pao / Asien Pao was born in Cambodia but moved to a Bangkok slum at an early age, she can‘t remember exactly. She is 37 years old now and has a six year old son and teenage daughter. Pao is HIV positive. She begs to feed and clothe her family. Pao came from a very small provincial town and her family was very poor. They did not have enough food so everyone, even as very young children, had to find money and fend for their selves.
Ramon und Angelika / Europe Son and Mother, once lived in a small apartment in Berlin. Ramon‘s father was an abusive alcoholic who beat his son, and hospitalised his wife repeatedly. He disappeared one day without a trace. Angelika worked in several part-time jobs as she struggled to support her and her son. Finally they had to vacate their home as it was deemed unfit for human habitation. It was supposed to be temporary, but now they have been living in a Berlin park for 5 months under tarpaulin.