Review of "Lead Me Home" (2021) on Netflix
Last Wednesday, I gathered Cal Habitat members to watch the Oscar-nominated documentary “Lead Me Home” (2021) and discuss the film’s strengths and weaknesses. The movie, directed by Pedro Kos and John Shenk, was filmed between 2017 and 2020 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle. Each of the three cities has declared a state of emergency regarding homelessness. Unhoused people tell their own stories in this film, elaborating on their histories of homelessness, their goals for the future, and their fight to survive.
If you could not attend the event, I have provided resources to engage with the material in this blog entry. Afterward, I will share my thoughts on the film.
First and foremost, take the time to learn how to support our local unhoused community. You can Venmo @pparkberk to support People’s Park mutual aid efforts, donate to the Suitcase Clinic, and research volunteer opportunities at People’s Park with The Workers’ Community Kitchen, which Cal Habitat was lucky to have worked with on Sunday. It is also essential to recognize how settler colonialism and racial capitalism have shaped and continue to shape the landscape of the United States across all social issues, including housing.
Now, onto the documentary. Since the film is only 40 minutes, it does not offer significant commentary on houselessness or poverty. Instead, it attempts to capture a day-in-the-life of various unhoused people living in the United States and give them a space to speak on a large platform about their experiences.
Due to its length, it only briefly touches upon the intersections of homelessness, criminalization, ableism, and systemic racism. Furthermore, by focusing on the problem without paying attention to the root causes or how people mobilize for change, the film creates a sense of hopelessness and removes the agency from its subjects.
In addition, the film could have benefitted by offering resources for people to learn where they can provide services for people in need. Even though there are resources on the film’s website, the average viewer would be left without action items they can take after watching the movie itself. While the film can be a starting point for catalyzing a discussion on houselessness, we must acknowledge its limitations and do the work ourselves to respond to this issue with material change.
If you are a student looking to meet housing needs, look at the Basic Needs Center for more information on finding housing.