The Homeless Film Festival started off as an effort to help homeless people all over the world by using the film industry to send out a message. It was Donkey Stone Films’ short documentary ‘Cleaning Up Cannes’ that inspired the small collective of filmmakers to make a short film – funded by IdeasTap – using and working with homeless people to tell their stories in 2010. This led to two separate shorts being developed, one from Manchester and one from Nottingham, screened around various independent cinemas scattered across the two major cities and other cities around the country.
When people started to pick up on what was going on, the screening soon grew into a touring project, which helped the project grow and develop until submissions were being accepted from other filmmakers who were interested in dealing with the issue of homelessness and rough sleepers across the country and globally, or films made by homeless filmmakers themselves. In addition to the submissions, the festival decided to include three important and highly influential films that dealt with the same issue – bringing that problem that so many of us simply turn our backs to, into our lives and television sets. Ken Loach’s Cathy Come Home, Adam & Paul and award-winning documentary, Dark Days.
This year, the festival’s project model was the filmmaking workshops, taking place over the last year, which allowed for homeless participants everywhere to take part in screenwriting sessions and camera work courses, providing the opportunity to gain an Arts Award and opening up doors to further education or employment. In addition to this, the participants would come out of the whole thing having written and developed a short film – some of which made the final selection and were actually screened last month. The opportunity for homeless citizens to really get involved in something was made possible by the collaboration of writers, directors, charitable organizations and educators, in an attempt to tackle the social issue by using a medium and an industry that can really talk to people, turn a few heads around.
The festival was and is a way to give such an important social issue a bit of the recognition it so greatly deserves. It provides a base for homeless people everywhere to say what they want to say through quality film, while giving those who want to fight the problem that chance to join in and express themselves appropriately. This is a chance to highlight all those individuals and organizations who want to see a change and it’s definitely something we’d love to see continue in the coming years.