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Empress Hotel| 1hr : 24mins
Director: Allie Light & Irving Saraf | Producer: Roberta Goodman
Focus Years: 2009 | Country: United States
Subject Tags: americas, global, health, housing, livelihood, oppression, poverty, united states
Quality Tags: Optimistic, Slow, Activating, Harmonizing
Empress Hotel is a full-length documentary that reveals the human face of homelessness. The Empress, a 90-unit permanent supportive housing model providing social and medical services on site, is an environment where residents are able to take hard-won steps towards stability. The film gives unusual access into the everyday lives of those who fell through the cracks of the social services system, focusing on the stories of ten residents. These stories, vividly narrated by the memorable characters who lived them, trace their various paths to the Empress Hotel. As viewers are pulled into the tales of survival and loss, stereotypes fall away. Though similarly fraught by mental health, medical and substance use issues, these lives represent a remarkable diversity of experiences, socioeconomic backgrounds and personalities. The intimate portraits, as surprising as they are moving, are the heart of the film. This documentary creates awareness of a part of our society that is overlooked and fosters an appreciation of the tremendous challenge it poses to individuals as well as the staff who support them. Empress Hotel offers a rare opportunity to witness the daily struggles and rewards involved in beginning anew, creating community, and possibly, transforming a life. Meet Lynn, holder of an M.A from San Diego State University and an M.S. from M.I.T., as she reenacts her life on the street. Paul, once a successful publisher, describes his invasion by spirits that now control his body. Eddie tells about his life of anger and violence and his four arrests. Jeffrey, Sonya and Marguerite reveal their battles with addiction and René tells of fighting mental illness. Action moves from the hotel to the streets of the Tenderloin providing insights into the lives of homeless people and their struggles.
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Roberta Goodman

United States


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