Thanks to the relative strength of North Carolina’s filmmaking industry, the state is usually represented in films at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.
As I have for the past seven years, I traveled there recently. I go out of personal interest and usually write about Carolinas connections for The Observer. One of this year’s films showcasing Charlotte surprised me.
Called “Kicking It,” it’s a documentary about soccer teams comprised of homeless people who compete annually in a Homeless World Cup tournament. An effort spearheaded at Charlotte’s Urban Ministry Center sends a U.S. team each year, and a Charlotte player was prominently featured in the documentary. (Click here
for my article from Sunday’s paper about it; here for another article about a Carolina film connection
In one sequence, the Charlotte player, Craig Holley, walks the streets of uptown Charlotte with a camera crew, and complains that in our city, there’s often no place for a homeless person to go. If the shelters are full and homeless people try sleeping on park benches or other public property, police officers will awaken them and make them move. Many end up in tents deep in the woods, and they, too, are sometimes forced to move along.
It’s no secret that this city has a serious homeless problem. It’s estimated there are more than 5,000 homeless in our community, and uncounted numbers of them sleep outside at night.
I wonder how much our leaders will want to celebrate our appearance in this film. It points up the sad reality that for many people who have fallen through the cracks of our system, there is simply no place to go.
So, I wrote in a brief for the Observer from Sundance that the film portrays Charlotte in an unflattering light. Lawrence Cann, a founder and leader of Charlotte’s homeless soccer program, took issue with my wording.
“The streets, in Charlotte or elsewhere in the world, are never nice and hardly ever described as peachy by someone who has to live on them,” he wrote in an e-mail.
But, he noted, Charlotte is ahead of many other cities in spearheading the homeless soccer program, which is credited with helping many homeless people turn their lives around. That includes Holley, the featured Charlotte man, who now lives in an apartment and has a job.
In that respect, yes, the documentary paints a positive view of Charlotte. And, I’m glad it provokes thought about the flip side of our shiny bank-towered skyline.
I also salute the filmmakers for coming up with the concept of “filmanthropy” – the idea of making a film about a cause they believe in, then contributing the film’s proceeds to the cause. This film’s profits will go toward the Homeless World Cup program. It’s been picked up by ESPN; no air date has been set yet.
This is an innovative way to attack the problem of homelessness. What else should we be doing?