From an overwhelming number of hopefuls, filmmakers Carolyn Coal and Cynthia Childs chose seven prospective tenants as they made their way through the application process. Arthur, who designed his first float for the Rose Bowl in 1959 and lost his partner to AIDS in 1989, lives alone in a tiny apartment and worries about health – he’s 64 and HIV positive.
Karen lost custody of her two sons when she came out as a lesbian in the late ’70s. She kidnapped them and was put in a mental institution after being caught. At the time of filming, Karen was being asked to leave the house where she was living. Her situation seems so dire, she resorts to magical thinking by constructing a paper model of the building and performing a ritual over it.
Bill came to Hollywood to be in show biz when he was only 15. He was named a “Star of Tomorrow” in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Although he somehow became good friends with Carrie Fisher, tomorrow never came and Bill ended up on food stamps.
Their and other stories are poignant, varied and handled with compassion. Common themes of isolation and uncertainty about the future emerged as they talked about their lives. During a tour of the building, the yearning to be chosen is palpable. For some, it seems to be the first time in a long time that they dared to have a dream.
Watching the process is a little nerve-wracking – you find yourself rooting for all of them to get into the building. It’s also heart breaking because not everyone receives the large packets that take them to the next step in the application process.
In addition to following these personal stories, we hear some sobering facts about the LGBT senior housing crisis from Triangle Square’s management, GLEH (Gay & Lesbian Elder Housing), a nonprofit dedicated to building and operating residential communities for our elders. Carolyn Dye, the Chair at GLEH says, “For us to be able to provide affordable housing in a spectacular location, like we’ve been able to do – it’s sort of like a miracle.”
A Place to Live rightly won the Audience Award at Outfest in 2008 and Best Documentary Feature Film at the Long Beach QFilm Festival, 2009. While Charlie Sheen would have you believe that having a porn star in your kitchen constitutes “winning,” the subjects in A Place to Live are the real winners because they lived to tell.
To find out each person’s fate, you’ll have to watch the documentary, but I will tell you that Nancy, who’s over 70 and going strong, was one of the lucky ones. When she was younger, Nancy was arrested many times for wearing men’s pants in public (a city ordinance back in the day) and saw some of her contemporaries commit suicide, just because they were gay. Nancy wasn’t having any of that. No ma’am.
“I don’t give nobody the satisfaction,” she says simply, “A lot of those people are gone, and I’m still here.”
Extremely well-produced, intelligent and ultimately, uplifting, I highly recommend A Place to Live, no matter how old you are.
A Place to Live: The Story of Triangle Square- Directed and written by Carolyn Coal; written by Cynthia Childs; edited by Susan Munro; original music by Marika Tjelios; produced by Noam Dromi, Ms. Childs and Kristy McInnis
To buy the DVD, go here.