Think homelessness and film and you can’t fail but think of Cathy Come Home. While the social action that followed Ken Loach’s cinematic call to arms was a one-off, the film project The Truth About Stanley could be a modern take on that artistic tradition; a visually striking and thought-provoking piece of social realism that seeks to raise not only awareness about homelessness, but funding.
Just today the government’s new homelessness figures showed 48,510 households were classed as homeless in 2011, a 14% rise on 2010. The situation has led one charity chief executive, Leslie Morphy, of Crisis, to demand action from the government amid the “perfect storm” – a combination of economic downturn, joblessness, soaring demand for affordable housing, housing benefit reform and cuts to homelessness services.
This is the dire social and economic backdrop to the forthcoming film shot by award-winning director Lucy Tcherniak. The Truth About Stanley tells the story of two rough sleepers who make unlikely friends; Stanley, an elderly Congelese man, and Sam, 10.
The non-linear narrative is intriguing, opening as it does with the death of Stanley and developing into questions about Stanley’s past and the reasons for Sam being on the streets.
The lines between reality and fiction are blurred as the pair’s friendship develops and Stanley regales his young runaway companion with stories from his past. Or, as the website neatly puts it: “No home, no belongings, plenty of baggage. A short film about a man, his stories and the boy who listened.”
The film offers a much-needed focus on the twin issues of older and younger rough sleepers. Entrenched rough sleeping is common among older rough sleepers but accurate figures on the issue and that of homelessness among older people are hard to come by, partly because of the hidden homelessness and the lack of age breakdown in head counts.
According to Homeless Link, however, the 2010 total of street counts in authorities with a known or suspected rough sleeping problem was 440 and generally around 18% are over 50-years-old.
As for children sleeping rough, again the figures lack accuracy, but according to the charity Railway Children, at least 100,000 children runaway in the UK every year and many are not reported as missing by their parents or carers. According to youth homelessness charity Centrepoint, 80,000 young people experience homeless in the UK each year.
The 20-minute film is being produced in association with Oscar-winning Trademark Films and features songs by Radiohead and Mumford and Sons. Stanley is played by renowened Kenyan actor Oliver Litondo, the lead from the international feature film The First Grader and Sam by 12-year-old Raif Clarke. This Guardian piece from last year tells you a bit more.
The trailer and shots here (photographs by Ben Millar Cole) have been released ahead of the premiere on April 2 at the Rich Mix cinema in Shoreditch. The film will be and released online on April 4th.
*To donate text STANLEY2, 3 or 6 to 70300 to give £2, £3 OR £6 to The Truth About Stanley fund or visit the project’s
Just Giving page.
100% of the donation will go to homeless charities Anchor House and The Big Issue Foundation. Follow the film on Twitter.