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Published August 18 2010

Documentary gives ‘Face’ to homeless

A documentary by an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker focusing on homelessness in Fargo and Moorhead will premiere at 7 tonight at the Fargo Theatre.

“The Face of Homelessness” was produced by the Fargo-Moorhead Coalition for Homeless Persons and directed by Polish filmmaker Hanna Pollak. The movie, which is less than 30 minutes long, tells the stories of people who have experienced homelessness in Fargo and Moorhead.

Organizers hope the film will explode certain stereotypes about who is homeless and put a human face on a problem that is often expressed

in statistics.

“The danger is that we lose sight of the human face of homelessness,” said Michael Carbone, executive director of the North Dakota Coalition for Homeless People. Homeless people aren’t “data points,” but “human beings,” he said.

Similarly, Laurie Baker, executive director of the F-M Coalition, said it’s one thing to hear statistics about the number of people living on the streets during a given night; it’s another thing to “hear a child say I had to leave all my clothes behind.”

Baker is particularly impressed with the “sense of place” in the “The Face of Homelessness.”

As you watch the film, “you know that these are our neighbors,” she said.

The movie was made by Pollak, whose film “The Children of Leningradsky” was nominated for a best documentary Academy Award in 2005.

“The Face of Homelessness” was to have premiered at the Fargo Theater in November 2008, but some technological glitches foiled that effort. Margie Bailly, executive director of the Fargo Theatre, said the technical issues have been resolved and won’t present a problem this time.

Since the version that was to be shown in 2008, Carbone said there has been some additional editing done to the film.

“It presented a pretty broad spectrum (of homeless persons) before,” said Carbone, who initiated the project back when he was executive director of the F-M Coalition. “But it presents an even broader spectrum at this point.”

Bailly said the problem of homelessness is one in which every member of the community should have ownership. She said she’ll be at tonight’s screening, hopefully along with “a lot of people who care about making a difference in this issue.”

The film cost about $20,000 to make, Carbone said. Funds for the project came from a variety of donors.

Carbone called the film “very impacting.” He says he’s seen a police officer choke up while watching it. And despite having watched it dozens of times, Carbone said, “It moves me every time that I see it.”


If you go

What: “The Face of Homelessness,” a documentary on homelessness in Fargo

and Moorhead

When: 7 tonight; singer-songwriter Raven Darkcloud will perform from 6:30 until the screening begins.

Where: Fargo Theater, 314 Broadway

Info: Admission is free; a freewill offering will be taken.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734