|Produced in collaboration with homeless people and shown
on PBS, this thought provoking homeless video is recommended by the National Coalition for the Homeless. The video is
widely considered to be the best and most broadly applicable case study available on the scope and diversity of
homelessness in America.
Twin Cities Reader
April 7, 1996
|by Jon Tevlin
The sad thing about a typical home movie is that it disguises the almost inevitable dysfunction of the family both
behind and before the camera. Patrick Hennessey's low-budget documentary, The Homeless Home Movie, however, manages
to expose as much about the people involved in homeless issues as it does about the homeless themselves.
Billed as a movie "not as much about (the homeless), as with them," The Homeless Home Movie does offer compelling
portraits of complicated people, and does so without glossing over the realities of their problems. It's hard to
forget characters such as West Side, a drunken but
sympathetic Vietnam Vet who volunteers at a shelter, or Ken
and Debbie, an aimless couple who tally rent payments by the number of bottles of Windsor they would buy. As he
promises, Hennessey allows them to tell their story, a tactic that humanizes his subjects, but also leaves viewers
pondering the holes in each personal history. Why, for example, does Debbie suddenly show up on camera with a black
An interesting side plot, but one that doesnít fit neatly with the director's stated intention, is the
philosophical rift between homeless-shelter guru Mary Jo
Copeland and Up and Out of Poverty's Mark Thisius. Rather
than simply portray Copeland as the local savior, as most media have done, Hennessey uses the contrarian Thisius to
challenge her assumptions. Scenes of Copeland calling on God to save the poor are nicely intercut with Thisius riling
the troops to action: "We've had enough charity. We want justice," he shouts.