Reviews for February 11th, 2009
Great Speeches from a Dying World
Directed by Linas Phillips.
This captivating documentary focuses on the struggles of nine homeless people scattered throughout Seattle, Washington. Each of the two women and seven men has a chance to speak their mind and express their feelings while talking about their physical conditions. Tomey Smith gets the most amount of screen time and seems to be the most articulate among everyone else. He candidly explains that he has been HIV positive for twenty-five years, suffered from addiction to cocaine and spent fifteen years in jail for being an accessory to murder. Up until 9/11, he had a decent job that helped keep a roof over his head, but, soon enough, he lost both that job and his girlfriend, so he ended up on the streets. From 10 PM to 5 AM, he’s able to rest his mind at a homeless shelter to gather his thoughts. Deborah Payne, wheelchair-bound cocaine addict living in a parking garage, explains that she first tried cocaine because she was simply bored of staying clean and wanted to try something new and exciting. In a particularly moving segment, another homeless person, Jose Martinez, admits that he had tried killing himself several times and shows us the scars on his body. Director Linas Phillips, who also directed Walking to Werner, has each of his subjects recite powerful speeches from a variety of classic sources, namely William Shakespeare, Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, John Donne and John Donne. It feels more poignant and authentic to listen to the homeless people speak in their own words, though, even if they sound like they’re rambling on and on at times. Phillips does a great job of making you sympathize with them despite that they might appear to be a little crazy at first. There’s more to them than meets the eye and, fortunately, he allows their emotions and thoughts to shine through whenever they’re talking to the camera. While Great Speeches from a Dying World doesn’t solve the issue of homelessness, at least it captivates your heart by humanizing homeless people and by giving them a voice. The next time you pass them by on sidewalk or park, you might at least consider helping them out somehow and won’t just ignore them, especially during these hard economic times. Number of times I checked my watch: 1. Released by Northwest Film Forum. Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.