The Homestretch documentary opens tonight and is showing at Gene Siskel film center, September 12th through September 18th. NRS is honored to…
The Homestretch documentary opens tonight and is showing at Gene Siskel film center, September 12th through September 18th. NRS is honored to serve on The Homestretch advisory task force and cover the showings throughout the week! Today, in advance of the premiere, we are thrilled to share the inspiring Director’s Statement.
Homestretch Director’s Statement by Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly
As directors, we had been searching a long time for a project that would speak to both our hearts. We found this film when a young high school student that Kirsten was working with on a theater project revealed to her that he was homeless and completely on his own. It was one of those moments in life when everything just stopped — How could this be? This kid was bright, talented, funny, and ambitious. He was going to school, attending rehearsals and seemed so normal. But each night he didn’t know where he was going to go. He was working hard to make something happen for himself while being alone in an impossible situation, and he was going to great lengths to hide his circumstances. For us, he put a completely unexpected face on homeless youth.
We started digging into the stats, talking to teachers and principals, and spending time with lots and lots of homeless kids. We spent time with them at school, riding the trains and buses, in open-door emergency youth shelters, and innovative transitional homes. Each one of the many kids we talked with has had an enormous effect on this film – their experiences, advice, traumas and humor are woven deeply into the fabric of The Homestretch. But when we found Kasey, and then Anthony, and then Roque, we were blown away by their powerful journeys and knew we had found the center of our film. And they, we soon learned, were eager for the chance to be heard, to let others know that they weren’t alone. So many of the kids we encountered along the way were fierce survivors, escaping the horrors of violence, drug addiction, broken family structures, poverty and crime. They were often thrown out of the house because of sexual preference, abandoned by parents who were unable emotionally or financially to care for them, or chose to leave because of physical or sexual abuse. We wanted to empower them to tell their own stories.
It is our hope that, through the deeply personal journeys of Kasey, Anthony and Roque, this film can shine a much needed light on one of the most hidden and exploited populations in America – unaccompanied homeless youth. Meeting Kasey, and learning how she was kicked out because she was gay broke our hearts, but her resiliency and charm were absolutely magnetic – everyone wanted to hang out with her. And so did we. Kasey introduced us to Anthony, whose wisdom floored us and whose writing and connection to words gave us a new, deeper perspective on these stories. Finding out how long he’d been bounced around through the foster care system before choosing life on the streets made us look hard at ‘the system’ through his eyes. And Roque and Maria taught us how deep joy and community can grow out of a rough situation. As we watched Roque move from feeling invisible towards becoming a confident, eloquent young man, we knew he belonged in this film.
We saw how all the kids we met fought hard against harmful stereotypes of homelessness, and as we listened and spent time in their worlds, we saw the surprising ways that they created temporary homes, fly by night communities and reached out for support. We were less interested in depicting ‘how homeless they were’ or in blaming the adults who abandoned them and more interested in capturing them moving forward, putting one foot in front of the other. We were inspired by their search for relationships and deep drive to build a future. In short, we sought to make an inspiring film about a devastating crisis.