My group, The Participant Advisory Group and the Lutherwood housing is Hosting the screening of ‘lowdown tracks” it won an award at the Hot Docs Film Festival.
It is an amazing documentary/film on Homelessness in Toronto and how they survive. So, Movie is at Princess Twin Cinema in Waterloo ,$10 tickets at door . Proceeds would go to the housing system in Waterloo region and food donations are being accepted,(non parishable) items. So come out and enjoy, do networking and support our community.
On December 9@6:45 pm Hope to see you there. !!!!!
Homeless musicians’ real-life stories
Film reminds viewers that we are all human beings with potential
The most shocking thing about “Lowdown Tracks” — a rabble-rousing doc that profiles five Toronto homeless musicians, including former Kitchener resident Maryanne Epp — is how talented its subjects are.
They all have issues, to be sure: mental health, addiction, abuse, you name it.
But when they strap on their guitars — and this is the film’s genius — it’s possible to envision every one of them on a stage in front of hundreds of people. They’re that good.
It’s the disparity between this staggering potential and the humbling reality of life on the streets that stops you in your tracks, makes you wonder “what the hell happened?”
“It’s like you disappear and all there is is the song,” Epp, who organized songwriter festivals in Kitchener and performed at open mike nights, tells filmmakers.
Her issues are typical: sexually abused as a kid, victim of domestic abuse as an adult, grappling with an array of mental health issues, unable to keep her focus for long.
“Seven years, 23 different shelters, three different provinces,” she notes in the film, bursting into tears. “It’s been a really hard dream.”
Even harder for filmmaker Shelley Saywell, who debuted “Tracks” to great fanfare at Toronto’s recent Hot Docs Festival, was making a film people would tune into without suffering “compassion fatigue.”
“These are tough subjects,” admits the Emmy-winning filmmaker, who interviewed her subjects over 18 months beneath bridges, on rooftops and along abandoned tracks.
“You want to find a way so people won’t turn off. To sit down and watch someone play music is one way to get to that place where it might do some good.”
Fronted by Lorraine Segato, the Parachute Club frontwoman turned activist who cocreated this film, Saywell pulls off a feat nothing short of astounding: She makes it almost impossible for anyone who watches it to walk past another homeless person without at least a modicum of sympathy and understanding.
“The whole point of the film is that everyone who’s homeless is a human being with potential,” she notes succinctly. “These are real people with real stories.”
Epp — who didn’t respond to requests for an interview — stands out as someone who seems on the constant verge of escaping her fate before circumstances inevitably intervene.
“There are a lot of ups and downs,” confirms Saywell, who says things haven’t changed since filming wrapped last February.
“There’s a reason everyone in the film, despite their talents, isn’t working as a professional musician: anxiety and mental health issues, addiction and the challenges of daily survival.
“Maryanne is one of the most talented people in the film, but she struggles with so many challenges.”
It’s a tough life when you have no money, no base of operations and no way of pulling yourself off the streets for more than a night at a time.
“Everyone who’s homeless is someone who has been hurt so much they don’t want to live in a house with other people,” says Epp, who tentatively asks the filmmakers if it’s OK to smoke a joint on camera.
All the film’s subjects are like this: defiant but vulnerable, soulful but haunted, philosophical but inflected with a great, irredeemable sadness.
It’s a dichotomy born of life on the streets, notes Saywell. And it’s unavoidable.
“Every single person living on the streets has PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder),” she notes.
“They’re suffering from traumatic experiences to begin with. And if you’re spending most of your day worrying about where you’re going to sleep and eat, your life is structured around trying to survive. The system isn’t functioning in any way if you’re homeless.”
Given her empathy, I ask why she didn’t just invite the film’s subjects to come live with her — an unfair question, but one I suspect with which she grappled.
“It’s really hard,” she confides. “There’s guilt, especially because we were filming a lot in winter. But I’m not a social worker. You have to care but also realize your limitations.”
What she did do — and this may be a longer term solution — is align the film with the The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, which is organizing community screenings, including one at Waterloo’s Princess Twin.
“It’s an ongoing mission to have this film do some good, to use it for advocacy,” says Saywell, noting the group considers homelessness a problem that is “solvable.”
“Shelters are a Band-Aid. There shouldn’t be homeless in this country. It’s obscene.”