Without a Home

Posted by on Nov 2nd, 2011 |
Gilbert in WITHOUT A HOME (Photo: Withoutahomefilm.com)

Directed by Rachel Fleischer
Produced by Joanna Adler & Fleischer
Released by Breaking Glass
USA. 74 min. Not rated

Rachel Fleischer’s documentary Without a Home is vital. It takes advocacy for a cause and embeds it in a truly moving story. Her film makes the invisible visible and gives a voice to a population, the homeless, that has been voiceless and drained of meaning and made to be, like the dispossessed throughout history, not human. Or perhaps, for the more liberal, a lesson: “Don’t end up like this man.” In any event, Fleisher helps, through a thoroughly emotional narrative, to make her subjects, and by proxy the homeless in general, real.

Without a Home is a small film, perhaps inexpertly made in terms of visuals, but that is rather the point. It is intimate, and through that intimacy, it creates vulnerability and opens up a space for homelessness to be seen for what it is. Fleischer has an eye for narrative and is effective at putting pieces together to make a satisfying film that isn’t relentless in stating its intentions. It neither infinitely repeats some progressive truism nor cloyingly plays upon your sympathies. Much of its power derives from its genuineness. It also serves as a Rorschach test for whether a person has a soul or not. If you are okay with people being homeless after you watch this, then there’s something sociopathic in your psyche.

While Fleischer’s inclusion of herself in the documentary may at first come off like some unthinking postmodern flourish or narcissistic, it soon becomes apparent that when dealing with a subject like the homeless in such a personal way, one cannot help but become enmeshed in their lives. Through a mixture of guilt, compassion, empathy, and friendship, Fleischer becomes the audience surrogate. As she becomes wrapped up in her subjects, through her, we too cannot help but become entangled as well.

With the financial crisis still in full swing, there’s something zeitgeisty here. While the project began well before things started to go truly downhill, homelessness is poised to become an even more crippling problem. It’s going to get worse, thanks to the Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems debacle, robo-signing, and lenders, like Bank of America, rushing through hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, possibly illegally. Keeping this in mind, Fleischer’s film is instrumental in reminding everyone that, as her rabbi once reminded her, “Paralysis is a luxury.” For Aristotle, the end result of a logical argument was always action—as it should be for the end of this moving, articulate film.