Homeless men, now auteurs, challenge preconceptions through filmmaking

PBS NewsHour video shot by Jordan Vesey and edited by Jasmine Wright.

Street Sense, a Washington, D.C., media nonprofit that publishes a newspaper written and sold by the homeless, has branched out to filmmaking. The Street Sense filmmaking co-op, called Capturing Hope, gives its members the tools to craft their stories, while equipping them with digital media skills to seek employment.

Launched during the summer of 2014, the co-op’s first film festival, “Cinema From the Street,” recently showcased three documentaries made by currently and previously homeless male filmmakers. The films had a common theme: life without housing.

One of the filmmakers, Levester Joe Green, debuted his film “I am Levester Joe Green II” with help from co-op facilitator Bryan Bello. The film chronicles his life on the street and the myriad of circumstances that led him to be sporadically homeless. A poet, Green told the NewsHour he was excited to pursue filmmaking as an additional medium to express himself: “In my wildest dreams I never thought that I would get the opportunity to tell my story on the big screen.”

Bello said filmmaking is a unique way to tap into a self-exploration. “Filmmaking is actually a more accessible way for someone to explore their own story,” said Bello. “There is something about that; I think the camera can actually be a sort of neutral medium where it’s almost easier to tell it to camera than it is to tell it to a social worker or something like that.”

Green’s film was produced as a collaboration with other filmmakers in the co-op who were eager to share their stories while challenging preconceived notions about homelessness. All three films, “I Am Levester Joe Green II,” “Fairness Rising,” and “Late Show,” can be viewed on Vimeo here.

The female directors’ showcase will premiere Aug. 26 at the Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington. Tickets can be purchased here.