Almost every seat was filled during Friday’s free screening in North Battleford of Us and Them, a film that puts a human face on homelessness.
Set in downtown Victoria, the documentary follows the lives of four chronically homeless people and looks at some of the root causes of why people end up living on the streets. Krista Loughton and Jennifer Abbott co-directed and wrote the film.
Seeing the amount of local interest was a positive sign for Loughton who spoke at the Capital Theatre screening.
"I'm thrilled with the response," she told battlefordsNOW. "Obviously a lot of people care here about helping the homeless. The film really shows why a compassionate attitude with a lot of empathy is really important to help our brothers and sisters who are suffering out on the street."
Loughton was in La Loche, Sask., prior to the screening working on a follow-up film with Karen Montgrand, one of the subjects of Us and Them. Originally from La Loche, Montgrand was one of four people featured in the film who were struggling with homelessness. Today she is no longer homeless and wants to help others living on the street.
At the start of the N.B. screening, Loughton said in a discussion with the audience she recently learned there are about 50 people in the Battlefords living on the street; and from that number about 95 per cent are Indigenous.
“We’ll be focusing on why there are a disproportionate number of Indigenous people on the streets right across Canada,” she said. “We’ve got to go back 200 years in order to do that, to look at the very painful, cruel colonial history of this country.”
Loughton said the cause of homelessness is a complicated issue. Sometimes addiction is involved; oftentimes childhood trauma is a significant factor, and more often there is a systemic reason that has created the situation.
She said ultimately when people are suffering from extreme poverty and in a crisis situation they don't have the option to simply "pull themselves up by their bootstraps," as some might suggest.
"People who are on the street are dealing with a tremendous amount of trauma and pain," Loughton said. "We want this film to be used to change attitudes out there."
The Battlefords Indian Métis Friendship Center sponsored the North Battleford screening, and the Battlefords Affordable Housing and Homelessness Committee helped organize the event.
Joni Gopher, service support coordinator with the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs (BATC), who attended the screening, said she would like to be able to show Us and Them to help the community. She said people participating in a local Life Skills program who are themselves dealing with dire poverty, and other challenges such as addictions, grief and loss issues would benefit from seeing Us and Them. She said the film touches on many topics relevant to people facing similar struggles.
"I think this movie is important because it talks about homelessness and addictions and how they go hand in hand," she said. “It was impactful for the First Nations people who were in the film.”
On Twitter: @battlefordsNOW
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