“The Messengers”: Volunteers serve homeless men with HIV at a house in Washington DC

The Messengers“, directed by Lucian Perkins, shows us the life of two committed volunteers at Joseph’s House, a hospice for homeless men with HIV and AIDS, in Washington DC, in Adams-Morgan.  The film showed at Filmfest DC on Sunday afternoon at Landmark E Street.

One young woman comes up for a year of service from North Carolina before finishing college, but now she has finished her Masters in social work at Columbia.

The film also traces the experiences of some of the patients, such as one who was told he had only two months to live but survived ten.  At one point Elijah actually looks forward to the possibility of his own place again, as sometimes people get better and can live on their own.  The experience here is more variable than at large “commercial” hospices where people die of old age and usually enter only when they have a few days to live. But this house is very much a home for the patients as is.

Emotionally the experience is very intense, with volunteers sitting with patients for very long periods. During the QA, it was said that the House only accepts volunteers who can make extensive minimum time commitments.  This is not an experience that benefits from large numbers for short times.

The film showed a cat and dog, and one wonders how well they understand what is happening.

In understanding the title of the film, it is well to remember that angels are messengers.




3 Comment that only long-term volunteers are needed

Name: “The Messengers”
Director, writer:  Lucian Perkins
Released:  2017
Format:  digital video
When and how viewed:  Filmfest DC, Landmark E Street, 2017/4/23, large auditorium nearly sold out
Length:  52
Rating:  NA
Companies:  NA  (hope to see on PBS Independent Lens?)
Link:  Facebook, Filmfest DC

(Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2017 at 11:45 PM EDT)

“Moonlight”: a tough coming-of-age drama, spanning decades, of a black gay man in Miami


Name: “Moonlight”
Director, writer:  Barry Jenkins (written, directed)
Released:  2016/10 (after Telluride)
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Angelika Mosaic, 2016/10/30, late PM, small audience
Length 111
Rating R
Companies: A24
Link: official

Moonlight” is a tough coming-of-age story of a young black man in the ramshackle tenements of suburban Miami.

It’s in three parts (“Little”, “Chiron”, “Black”) with a different actor playing the boy (Alex Hilbert), teen (Ashton Sanders) and grown man (Trevante Rhodes).

In the opening, a crack dealer (Mahershala Ali) rescues the boy and becomes a father figure, as the film then explores the boy’s relationship with the drug-addicted mother.

As a teen, Chiron is bullied, and in one scene he asks his de facto parents what a “faggot” is.  Eventually, he becomes intimate “On the Beach” and “In the Moonlight” with Kevin (Jharrel Jerome).  The film has a couple classroom scenes, one where the biology teacher is trying to educate the kids about AIDS, and another where the teacher has to control a fight started by Chiron getting back at the bullies.

In the final part, Chiron is a hardened adult in the “Scarface” world of south Florida.  He wears an artificial denture resembling “Jaws” in the Bond movies.  But he reunites, at least in deep friendship, with Kevin.

The film confronts the gentrified viewer with the harsh reality of growing up in the drug-infested housing projects, where drug dealing is almost the entire economy.  Chiron tries to become as good a person as possible given the circumstances of his rearing.

The plot structure, of resuming a relationship that had started earlier, resembles that of “Lazy Eye” (Oct. 27) and even occurs in Dan Blatt’s novel “Calypso’s Cave” which I read a draft of in 1997 (discussion) — would make a nice indie film if it got made.

African American migratory workers by a "juke joint". Belle Glade, Florida, February 1941. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
African American migratory workers by a “juke joint”. Belle Glade, Florida, February 1941. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Marion Post Wolcott. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In August 1986, when on vacation in a rent car, I visited Belle Glade, FL a migrant labor town on the shore of Lake Okeechobee, which had become a small epicenter for AIDS.  A car followed me out of town back to West Palm Beach.  It was bizarre.

I have to say that the “Moonlight” metaphor title hooks up with Reid Ewing’s song “In the Moonlight (Do Me)” from Modern Family. No, it’s not used but it could have been.  There is a lot of interesting African string music, but also a Mozart excerpt.

Picture: FL Everglades, my trip, 2004. Wikipedia attribution link for Belle Glade picture, LOC, p.d.

(Posted: Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 at 10 PM EDT)