Icarus Films will be teaming with Bullfrog Films for the Oct. 4 DVD debut of the documentary filmmaking team of Anne De Mare and Kirsten Kelly’s The Homestretch, a harrowing look at Chicago teenagers in crisis.
If Chicago were a country, it could be chocked up as a failed state. The murder rate is off the charts, the state of the city’s economy looks more and more like Detroit every day and nothing seems to work.
De Mare and Kelly focus on just one element of this urban nightmare, teenagers on the streets; homeless … they estimate that over 2,000 are on the streets on any given night. The city school system reports at least 19,000 students are classified as homeless.
But through all of this doom and gloom, there is hope.
The Homestretch follows three of these homeless teens — Roque, Anthony and Kacey — and gives us glimpses into some of the issues that put teens like them in perilous straits. It’s not always economics or the breakdown of families (yes, those are major factors — 23 percent of the city’s population lives in poverty), but many of the teens simply “don’t fit.” Cultural mores put gays and transgender kids on the street … they are simply not welcome.
All three are trying to better themselves, Roque has made it to his senior year in high school and Kacey, a lesbian, has had the guidance and care that she couldn’t find at home. Anthony, an example of kids having kids, not only has to overcome issues in his life, but has to succeed in order to provide for his infant son who is currently in foster care … you get the sense that he may develop the skills to do just that!
We also learn from The Homestretch that there are resources available, but they are “stretched” precariously thin. TLP (Teen Living Programs) is cited as an example of what works — 83 percent of the kids that find their way into the program attended or completed school and three-quarters of them find jobs.
Also on added to the release calendar by Icarus Films this past week is Russian filmmaker Vitaly Manskiy’s extraordinary look at life in North Korea, Under the Sun. The street date for the DVD debut will be Sept. 20.
This arthouse entry (and award-winner on the festival circuit) has pulled in $61,822 in its limited run and arrives with an ARR of 74 days. It is now Oscar-eligible in the documentary category.
Somehow the powers that be in Kim Jong Un's despotic kingdom thought it would be a good idea to produce a propaganda film showcasing the glorious life of an eight-year old girl and her family. Perhaps the fact that Manskiy is Russian kept his minders from being suspicious that he would just keep on filming after the staged scenes were completed.
The story centers around Zin-Mi, who is a new member of the Children’s Union, having joined on the annual Kim Jong Il birthday celebration, which is called “The Day of the Shining Star.” We see her at school, we follow her home to her parent’s apartment — her parents work at a very successful factory and, as a result, enjoy a lifestyle that certainly meets or exceeds Western standards.
The problem with this idyllic picture of life in Pyongyang is that it is all a fraud, but the clever way that Manskiy presents it is he shows the “staged” presentation and then after the obligatory “cut” the cameras continue to roll. It’s like a Hollywood production! Action! Cut! And then we see what goes on after the actors and crew move on to the next scene … everything is staged; a fantasy.
This begs the question, no, wait, two questions. First, how did Vitaly Manskiy get all of the raw footage out of the country? Second, do you suppose Manskiy is planning any return trips to this worker’s paradise?
Under the Sun is presented in Korean with English subtitles.