Local Film on Homelessness Finds Shelter at the IMA
The film debuts this Saturday at the Toby Theatre.
For first-time filmmakers Adam Oppenheim and Sam Mirpoorian, the inspiration for their documentary on homelessness in Indianapolis came from a local news report. In early 2013, Oppenheim saw a brief piece on the subject and decided a larger story needed to be told, even if he wasn’t sure what that story was just yet.
“I wasn’t familiar with the homeless community at all, really,” Oppenheim says. “I was pretty naive, pretty ignorant.”
Since Oppenheim’s background was in photography, he had to seek help for the technical aspects of video production. He had heard of Mirpoorian, who at that point was making mostly music videos, and the two began to collaborate. The result, Uncharted: The Truth Behind Homelessness, will play in the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Toby Theatre this Saturday, August 30, at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
The filmmakers’ original idea was to live in a homeless camp, but they soon realized that was unrealistic. They began reaching out to people living in the Davidson Street homeless camp and to service providers that focus on the homeless. Oppenheim remembers that their early attempts to make progress were mostly fruitless. But that turned around when one of Oppenheim’s friends connected him with a homeless man with whom she went to church. After some Facebook communication, Oppenheim and Mirpoorian were able to return to Davidson Street and interact more openly with the camp members. Maurice Young, then the de facto leader of the encampment, is featured heavily in the film.
When the city shut down the Davidson Street encampment in August 2013, Mirpoorian and Oppenheim were there to see it. They then turned their attention to city officials, some of whom gave them the runaround or provided contradictory information.
Mirpoorian and Oppenheim insist, however, that the finished film is not about bashing the government. It’s about raising awareness for the plight of the homeless in Indianapolis.
“It’s not even about being on the side of the homeless; it’s about telling the truth,” Mirpoorian says. “And the truth will always prevail.”
The co-directors believe that there are several ways to solve the problems related to the city’s homeless population. They cite the COT Force program, an initiative that saved taxpayers more than $200,000 over the course of a year, as well as myriad service providers that do an admirable job. Ultimately, though, their goal is to raise awareness of the problem’s underlying issues and to encourage citizens to be aware of it.
“We hope the film’s not going to go away,” Oppenheim says. “We want the city to see it.”