Film Studies Benefit Raises Homelessness Awareness

"Where God Left His Shoes" will be shown at the Center for Film Studies Oct. 25 to raise funds for Middlesex County Homelessness Prevention Fund.

When Frank, Angela, and their two children are evicted from their New York City apartment, they have no choice but to move into a homeless shelter. After a few difficult months, an apartment becomes available in a nearby housing project. There’s only one catch: Frank needs a job in order to qualify or the apartment will get rented to someone else. While the rest of the city prepares for Christmas, Frank and his 10-year-old stepson, Justin, roam the cold streets of New York trying to find a job by day’s end.

While this is the story line for the feature film, “Where God Left His Shoes,” the same scenario resonates in the local community.

“Unfortunately this film portrays a reality right here in Middlesex County,” says Kevin Wilhelm, executive director of the Middlesex United Way. “The film demonstrates the difficult struggle that real people face everyday to survive.”

On Oct. 25, Wesleyan’s Center for Film Studies will host a screening of “Where God Left His Shoes” to benefit the newly established Middlesex County Homelessness Prevention Fund. The event is hosted by Middlesex United Way to raise awareness of the plight and needs of the homeless in the local community.

Jeanine Basinger.

Jeanine Basinger.

“Our guests are going to see a well acted, entertaining film, but I will warn everyone to bring a Kleenex or two,” says Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, chair of the Film Studies Department, curator of Cinema Archives. “It’s an incredibly strong picture, told in very personal and human terms what it means to be homeless.”

“Where God Left His Shoes,” a film co-produced by Daniel Edelman ’78, is the story of a family that refuses to break apart during the darkest time of their lives and discovers that they will survive as long as they have each other.

Wilhelm says a study taken Jan. 30, 2007 revealed that 12 families with 20 children were found unsheltered in the woods, on the streets and living in cars in Middlesex County. Statewide, an astounding 29 percent of unsheltered families are from the region – the highest number of unsheltered families of any community in Connecticut.

“Many homeless people have jobs, and those that don’t have jobs are eager to work to support themselves and their loved ones,” Wilhelm says. “Too many people often live paycheck to paycheck and are one crisis away from being homeless.”

Attendees can purchase either VIP tickets for $75 or film tickets for $50. Only 200 VIP tickets are available. Forty student tickets to see the film are available for a suggested donation of $20 each through the Center for Film Studies office. The cinema seats 412 total.

An anonymous donor has agreed to match contributions for this event up to $10,000.

VIP tickets include special presentation with film producer Edelman and Basinger prior to the film; a wine tasting of exclusive and limited edition California wines; a special VIP reception, coffee and dessert and preferred seating.

Tickets include the film showing and remarks by Wilhelm and Edelman, who majored in film studies and East Asian studies at Wesleyan.

“Our alumnus Dan Edelman is very committed to the cause and helped raised the money and created the vision for the film,” Basinger says. “He’s an excellent speaker, he’s very intelligent and he’s a great example of Wesleyan’s liberal arts tradition.”

“Where God Left His Shoes” is the winner of the 33rd HUMANITAS Prize for the best Sundance feature film. It was the recipient of the best supporting actress award and nominated for the best film, best actor, best supporting actor awards at the 2008 Imagen Awards.

The VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m. and the film showing begins at 8 p.m. in the Goldsmith Family Cinema at Wesleyan.

For tickets and more information, call Maria Demarest at the Middlesex United Way at 860-346-8695 or visit www.middlesexunitedway.org. For more information on Middlesex Country’s plan to end homelessness visit http://www.cceh.org/middlesex/index.htm. For more information on the film visit www.vulcanproductions.com.

The United Way benefit is just another way the Center for Film Studies’ helps local charities. In 2005, Basinger spoke on her book Stardom: Then and Now to raise awareness for the Middlesex County Community Foundation, Fund for Women and Girls; in 2006, the center hosted a screening to raise awareness for rebuilding local eatery O’Rourke’s Diner; in 2007, it hosted a series of screenings and lectures on Katharine Hepburn, to bring attention to the Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center and Theatre Project in Old Saybrook, Conn; and in 2008, Film Studies hosted a screening of “Casablanca” for the Middletown Foundation for the Arts to raise money for scholarships, and provided a guest speaker for a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. The department also hosted its second annual Summer Film Series, free of charge for the community, in July.

“We’re very happy to be able to do things like this for the local community, and in the future, we’d like to do more,” Basinger says. “I’ve lived in Middletown’s North End since 1960 and it’s always been a tradition to participate in as much as you can with your community, and try to put something back into it.”