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|Filmmaker Tackles Homelessness
By Carol Parker
What Does A Person Deserve? Is the question posed by a film by the same name playing at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. Emmy award-winning filmmaker Ken Kimmelman tackles the issue of homelessness and hunger with a stirring montage of black and white photographs showing the brutal effects on people's lives.
The film premiered in May at the National Summit on Homelessness in Washington, D.C. where public officials and advocates gathered to discuss the problem in America. Michael Stoops, director of field organizing projects of the National Coalition for the Homeless, commented, "What Does A Person Deserve? is awesome. It has the potential of arousing the conscience of the American people. Eli Siegel's statement is a wonderful philosophic point—and practical."
Siegel, poet, philosopher and founder of the not-for-profit educational foundation Aesthetic Realism, was the first to ask, "What does a person deserve by being alive?" Kimmelman's film contemplates this question in a powerful and moving way. It ends with Siegel's words, "The world should be owned by the people living in it.…All persons should be seen as living in a world truly theirs."
Kimmelman's purpose in making the film is to help end homelessness and hunger which he says, "never should exist for a day in a country which can provide enough food and shelter for everyone." He believes the reason the country does not provide this is "that our economy, where people are seen for how much profit can be made from them, is based on contempt, 'the lessening of what is different from oneself as a means of self-increase as one sees it.' I feel Eli Siegel's question, 'What does a person deserve by being alive?' is tremendous opposition to contempt and must be asked by everyone for there to be economic and social justice in America."
This is Kimmelman's second film based upon a statement by Siegel. His first, "The Heart Knows Better," was an anti-prejudice film that won an Emmy Award in 1995. It has been shown worldwide at theatres, television, and stadiums. At Yankee stadium, the film is shown at every game including the 1999 World Series. Kimmelman has produced films for the United Nations and received numerous awards, including the Newark Black Film Festival's Paul Robeson Award. He is a consultant on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and teaches film and animation at the School of Visual Arts.
The film, "What Does A Person Deserve?" is endorsed by the National
Coalition for the Homeless; Foodchain; Aesthetic Realism Foundation; National
Alliance to End Homelessness; Community Foodbank of New Jersey and received
a grant from The Harburg Foundation.
December 16, 1999