Great Speeches From a Dying World: Seattle’s Homeless on Film

The guy holding the "Smile" sign at the Marion Street pedestrian ramp to the ferry terminal? He's got a name. The wino begging for change outside Dick's in LQA? Him too. And the crack addict getting into a noisy argument on your bus? Filmmaker Linas Phillips befriends them all in his generous, well-shot, well-edited documentary. But if anything, this well-intentioned filmmaker is too generous with his subjects, too infatuated—as if he were the first guy who ever noticed all those sleeping forms beneath I-5 and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Well, Linas, they were there before you moved to Seattle, and they're still here now that you've gone. And Nickelsville notwithstanding, we're actually managing the problem—meaning those among the homeless who want to be helped—better than most other cities. It's much worse in L.A. or New York, where Phillips is now based. One could apply the same pedestal gimmick (sorry, but that's what it is), having the homeless read famous literary passages, in any city in the U.S. (In fact, a recent homelessness-awareness campaign achieved the same effect, without the slurred verbiage, by dressing street dwellers in tailored suits and putting Peter Steinbrueck and other local politicos in hobo garb.) Phillips does his best work here when focusing on the story of one guy, Tomey Smith, and letting him speak in his own words.

 
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