Entertainment Magazine: Film

Homeless: Fact and Fiction

By Jared Winslow


Homeless, a documentary-like film, shows the cycle those in poverty go through from day to day.

This cinéma vérité film is based on a true story, but it is not really a documentary; it is more of an example of one of the endless stories, many just like it, that have happened in the real world.

The filmmakers, Tif Hassler (producer) and Clay Hassler (director, cinematographer, co-writer), created the movie with the intention of spreading a message about homelessness.

They feel that if family/friends could create “a support system to a homeless person,” it would help. In fact, it just might “dramatically change the life of someone who finds themselves in a homeless situation.”

The main character Gosh (Josh), played by newcomer Michael McDowell, must overcome a cold and lonely life, and he must also let go of his father, who has a negative influence as a prison inmate.

I asked Clay and Tif Hassler a couple of questions about the film.

For Tif Hassler, her question was:
If one of your friends became homeless and you could help them, what one specific thing do you think you could do to help them the most?

If I had a friend who was on the verge of homelessness, I think one specific thing I could do to help would be to gather several friends and family to form a support system to uplift and re-establish my friend. Too often homeless individuals do not have family/friend structures to help them through their current situation.

This is how the story of Gosh (Josh) plays out in Homeless. Gosh is cared for by his grandmother, but after she passes away, Gosh is left to take care of himself. Since he has no support system or remaining family members, his only option becomes the local homeless shelter. Finding people who will gather together to be a support system to a homeless person is one very specific way to help. I think this could dramatically change the life of someone who finds themselves in a homeless situation. I truly believe our homeless population would decline as a result.

For Clay Hassler, his question was:
How do you feel about the mother who gives Gosh a place to stay, and his response to her when she steals the money he saved up and hid?

For me, Tina is one of the most interesting characters in the film. She certainly has the most dramatic arc of anyone. When she welcomes Gosh into her home, I believe it comes from a very sincere place of compassion, and she truly wants to help him in any way she can. But as her circumstances become more pressing, the stressors of her life push her to make an immoral decision, which compromises both her integrity and her relationship with Gosh.

From a human standpoint, she’s certainly not justified in doing this, but I think audiences understand why she did it — even if they may not agree with her. Gosh had no other choice but to walk away. Despite his circumstances, he stays on the straight and narrow — avoiding trouble, avoiding criminal behavior — which is why, even at the very end of the film, we know he will press on.

Thank you, Tif and Clay! It was great meeting you at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis. You made a wonderful film.

2015 Heartland Film Festival Index

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