This post follows the earlier ones about books and music about the meaning of home and some of those books are also films and are included here. As mentioned and with the links from the earlier post, we can learn lots – perhaps even more – about what housing means from other perspectives and feelings that may fall beyond our immediate experiences. Home of course is also about belonging (or not) and each of these films have elements of that too.
- We have to start this list with Cathy Come Home depicting the effect of homelessness on families in 1966. It was of course around this time that Shelter commissioned Nick Hedges to photograph people living in poor housing – you can find links to his work here. (Loach of course documents the effects of poverty and benefits elsewhere, notably in I, Daniel Blake, a film with immense impact having similar enormity of impact.)
- Also on the homeless theme, and far more recently A Street Cat Named Bob tells the real life story of homelessness, drug addiction and a cat.
- Issues of migration and poverty are rarely far from the headlines today and John Steinbeck’s book The Grapes of Wrath and later the film based on the 1930s migrant labour voice of America reveals what this means for families who are simply trying to get by and how they suffer.
- Isabel Allende’s novel and later film version of The House of the Spirits takes us on a trip to South America through a family history, where they live and the spirits who are there too.
- The Lady in the Van recounts Alan Bennett’s memoirs of Mary Shepherd who came to stay for a few weeks, but lived, parked up on his drive for years, and unravels her past as a pianist. This lady in the van was not the only pianist who lives in her vehicle: Ann Naysmith did too.
- Home is not always a place of sanctuary: for some it is more of a prison and venue of abuse. Precious shows us how this can be so and the effects this can have.
- The true story of Joyce Vincent who was found dead after three years in her home, with the TV still on: Dreams of a Life
- For a beautiful fictional story of Irish gypsies and what the state does to them, watch Into the West.
- Back to true stories and Stuart: A Life Backwards is desperately sad, and in places desperately funny, and doesn’t end well but teaches us much about chaotic lives and housing and the links with other services. It shows how we too easily label and process people and risk missing out on knowing who they really are. Don’t watch it if you’re feeling down.
- Angela’s Ashes – the film version of one of my favourite autobiographies that I couldn’t wait to see about poverty, Ireland and Catholics.
- In Between is about three very different Palestinian women who share an apartment in Tel Aviv and how they live together amongst competing cultures, traditions, values and beliefs.
- And finally, a musical film. Oliver Twist is about children, poverty, how and where they live. I wonder what Charles Dickens would have thought?
We’ll come back another time to documentary films and where to find them.