SASKATOON — A number of local Saskatoon agencies collaborated to offer a special free screening of the documentary Us & Them Sept. 21 at the Roxy Theatre.
Ten years in the making, the film documents the friendships that filmmaker Krista Loughton has with four chronically homeless individuals in Victoria, B.C.
What begins as a journey to help ease the pain of others ultimately sees Loughton changed. Through interviews with Dr. Gabor Mate — renowned addictions expert — and the use of indigenous traditions such as the medicine wheel, Loughton documents their mutual journey toward healing and friendship, while also shining a light on the root causes of homelessness and addiction.
Loughton has been on tour screening the film across Canada in an attempt to humanize the homeless and, as she says, “opening our hearts to people on the street.”
The film was presented by the Saskatoon Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP), the United Way Saskatoon, Stewart Properties, Sum Theatre, Persephone Theatre, EVCO Developments, and Shift Development as a means of promoting awareness of the issue of homelessness in our community.
In his introduction of the film Chris Randall, director of Saskatoon’s Homelessness Action Plan at SHIP explained, “Through films like this, we can become aware of the issue and hopefully, when we see people who are struggling with housing or who are at risk of homelessness, we can see them through a different lens: we can see them as fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters — people who need our help.”
In a post-screening question-and-answer session with audience members, Loughton spoke about the lessons she learned in the process of creating the film.
“It taught me to provide unconditional love in a non-judgmental way,” she said, “for them as well as for me.”
She went on to clarify that learning to be non-judgmental and compassionate toward people who are homeless and struggling with addiction is something she consistently works at.
“It’s hard work. In some ways it’s easier to be grumpy and angry than it is to be compassionate and loving,” she said, “but you never give up on people. As long as a human being is breathing, you never give up on them, because they’re alive; they need love and care, just like we all do.”
Loughton noted how the “Discrimination and prejudice toward people living on the street is atrocious. So many homeless people told me that they feel invisible. Each one of us can individually change that. It really matters how we treat each other. Give people the decency of being kind.”
Looking forward, Loughton is interested in addressing the disproportionate number of indigenous people living on the street. She has begun working on her second documentary, which will focus on indigenous homelessness.