If you live in a major urban centre and are working in or commuting in the downtown core you have seen it time and time again. Homeless people. Homeless people begging. Homeless people drinking. Homeless people fighting. Erratic homeless people shouting to themselves. Homeless people living in encampments. It could be like stoplights they are part of the urban landscape and you learn to live with it which often means complacency. The problem of homelessness and urban poverty never seems to disappear and in tough economic times it increases. In short you may have given up in what you consider the bottom end of society. Major bureaucratic corporate charities want your money so they advise you not to give money to the homeless. God bless the humanity of so many corporate charities that cozy up to major corporations and public service organizations so the incessant goal of raising money becomes a game of the leaders of these corporations and I have seen this game being played by upper management. Compassion is part of the old boys’ network and so is bullying and coercing employees to contribute. Corporate charity with goals, objectives and performance bonuses. They know best.
To remind us of the inconvenient sore of homelessness we must welcome films like “I May Be Dead by Tomorrow”. I almost took the position when watching the film that I have watched many similar films so what’s new about this film. Not much but I must remember and many of us should remember just because we have been living with the problem or have seen numerous films of a similar genre there are many out there that are seeing this social mess for the first time and documentaries like “I’ll be Dead by Tomorrow” are required to remind the old guard and introduce novices to urban poverty.
In the documentary we follow the EMRII which is a combination of police officers and social workers that comb the streets of Montreal doing the best they can to “manage” the homeless situation in urban Montreal. In days of old homeless people were run out of town, ignored or imprisoned but EMRII, as insufficiently resourced at it is has the purpose, “of reaching the homeless, who are involved in police interactions with the police and have factors of vulnerability”. If you want to see a short video of them in action you can watch here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmycjJpvUSk
I will let you watch the stories of several people living on the streets and what the EMRII is doing to make their lives better and in so doing make our lives better and more decent. Many of you know many of the homeless have problems with addiction and mental illness and this documentary delves into the lives of a handful of misfortunates that can’t climb out of their quandary the EMRII is there to try to do.
It’s a hard life being homeless and as the documentary is shot during a brutal period in a Montreal winter makes living on the edge harder and dangerous. And having lived in Montreal for over 30 years seeing so many familiar landmarks drives home the severity of the issue which unfolds a series of interactions of the homeless and the EMII.
The camera is a fly on the wall and supposedly there are no value judgements made except if you view the making of the documentary as a sort of value judgement itself. Is admitting and exposing a problem not a sort of value judgment?
Director Patry says, “I MIGHT BE DEAD BY TOMORROW set out to probe the question of life on the streets of Montréal. My aim was to candidly document the suffering that plays out there daily, being careful to avoid any form of cheap sentiment or hand-wringing. It was only by following a team of responders known as Équipe itinerance that I was able to balance the harsh day-to-day realities of street life with the hopes for a better future expressed by those who live there. While there is no magic-bullet solution to homelessness, the various interventions captured on film attest to the comradeship, respect and trust that exist between the members of this community. Those moments of mutual aid also helped banish my own long-held fears about what I gloomily perceived as our dwindling humanity.”
The film was written directed and produced by Steve Patry. Should there be a sequel that tries to explain why homelessness exists and our attitudes toward it? The doc is on VOD or on DVD.
You can catch the trailer here https://vimeo.com/458187442
RKS Film Rating 90/100.