Homeless filmmakers show their short films at Hamilton festival

Homeless filmmakers teamed with volunteers to make short films that will debut this week at the Core Collaborative Learning Film Festival.
Robert Wilson, left, and actor Chris Bre, right, star in Different Corners, premiering at the Core Collaborative Learning Film Festival tonight. The festival features local filmmakers who are, or have once, been homeless. (Brandon Agnew)

A young man walks past a homeless person near his Hamilton apartment, and at first, he doesn't give him much thought.

He's busy. He has errands to run and a life to live. Then as he's putting away groceries, he spots a picture of his grandfather — someone not so different from the man he just passed. He walks back outside, and the two form a connection.

He knew what he wanted from this film.- Brandon Agnew on fellow filmmaker Robert Wilson

This is just one of several short films people who are or have been homeless have made for a two-day film festival starting tonight.

The Core Collaborative Learning Film Festival — held in partnership with the city, Good Shepherd and the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, among others — is a platform for people with experience with homelessness to tell their own stories, says organizer Cole Gately.

The festival includes seven short films and two feature-length ones. Among them is Different Corners, the aforementioned film about two strangers connecting. It's a collaboration between Robert Wilson – who has been homeless – and Brandon Agnew, a volunteer passionate about the cause.

Wilson and Agnew connected through Gately, and started meeting at the Mulberry Cafe every week. They hammered out the script together, found someone to shoot it, and found actor Chris Bre to star in the film opposite Wilson. Their 11-minute film premieres at 6:30 p.m. tonight.

You can reach so many more people when you do it visually and let people actually speak their own stories.- Cole Gately, festival organizer and educational co-ordinator with Core Collaborative Learning

The plot was Wilson's idea, Agnew said. "He's an artist through and through. He's a great storyteller. He knew what he wanted from this film."

They shot the film in black and white at half a dozen locations around Hamilton, Agnew said. Their goal, he said, was to "capture the imagination and creativity of a city" and make people think harder when they cross paths with someone.

The festival will be annual, Gately said. Film lets people use their own voices, and the stories stick with people.

'Let people speak their own stories'

"It's much more engaging than a peer reviewed journal or some sort of report," he said. "You can reach so many more people when you do it visually and let people actually speak their own stories."

The festival starts at 6:30 p.m. June 22 and 23.

On both days, the evening starts with short films done by local people who have experienced homelessness. Thursday will also feature the film Heater by Hamilton filmmaker Terrance Odette, followed by a panel with filmmakers, experts and people who have been homeless.

On Friday, the festival will screen I, Daniel Blake, followed by a panel.

Tickets are $20 for one night, or $30 for both, and available at the door. The festival is at the Lincoln Alexander Centre, 160 King St. E., and is also sponsored by the Art Gallery of Hamilton, the Shelter Health Network and the theatre.