Opinion

"Why I made a comedy about homelessness"

The Director is a mockumentary, written and directed by Patrick Ireland, about a ‘serious’ filmmaker’s desperate attempts to make a ‘serious’ documentary on homelessness. He explains how comedy can explore subjects in a different light

There is nothing particularly funny about homelessness. I am the first one to admit this. What is happening across our country, on and off the streets, is an epidemic. A poverty epidemic. 

So why did I decide to make a comedy about homelessness? 

The very fact that homelessness exists in a society of such extreme wealth and abundance is absurd. It’s nonsensical. As such, I felt it fitting to make an absurdist film about homelessness – in spite of people telling me that it was a bad idea. And there were many, believe me. 

When I first moved to London to pursue filmmaking I was genuinely shocked by the amount of homeless people on the streets. I was also equally disturbed by how people could so easily ignore them. I know it’s not entirely their fault, and sadly yes, as the years have gone by, I too have become slightly de-sensitized to it all.

Comedy, especially in cinema, has a long and colorful history of imparting truth. From Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator to the Monty Python films; comedy is among the most effective ways of removing the great, social veil and revealing to people what is actually happening behind the proverbial curtain.  

I think one of the reasons the Basil Fawlty character, for example, is such an engaging and memorable watch is because, deep down, we can see parts of ourselves within him. He informs us – in some strange, dark way – of who we are.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNAVK0ckJFA

Comedy takes our flaws and turns them into gags. Takes our politics and turns it into farce. Takes our fears and horrors and turns them into jokes. 

Indeed, when Ken Loach’s acclaimed homelessness drama Cathy Come Home first came out in the 1960s, I am told, there was a massive, social outcry. How could we allow such things, as depicted in the film, exist? 

A few decades later, the excellent I, Daniel Blake was met with a much quieter reception – in spite of its awards and realistic portrayal of ‘food bank Britain’. The Tories called it “fantasy” whilst the lips of the rich and architects of our society remained, tellingly, sealed.

My film, despite its wackiness, comes from a place of real empathy. However, rather than making something which looked to highlight the specific struggles and hardship of the homeless, I instead wanted to make a film about the kind of people in this world that allow homelessness to persist. The ‘Patrick’s’ of this world. They are the people this film mocks and encourages you to laugh at.

Perhaps, The Director will have better luck than some of the more traditional dramas of our age in making people angry at just how far we’ve fallen as a country and people.

And more importantly, I hope it acts as a reminder that homelessness exists because we let it.”

The Director will be screened at the Close-Up Film Centre in Shoreditch on Thursday the 8th of February at 6pm. The money raised via tickets will go towards Ealing Soup Kitchen, one of the primary locations used during the film 

Tickets available here

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