A new documentary filmed in Portland follows some working class families on a helpless journey toward losing everything. April Baer reports the film premieres Sunday at the Portland International Film Festival.
Joe and Harry Gantz, who’ve done a lot of work on HBO, came to Oregon for their new project, American Winter.
The film is full of difficult scenes from life on the edge of poverty. One mother, Tara, tears up recalling her son’s questions about the family’s finances. “My four-year-old was like, ‘Mommy why are you crying, what’s wrong?’ And I was like, ‘Nothing, baby, it’s OK. Everything’s OK.’ ‘Then why are you crying, Mommy?’ “
In the film, eight local families struggle for basic needs, their lives compounded by job lay offs and medical problems.
Jeannette, a single mother who’s husband died completely unexpectedly, recalls the day her entire life changed. “I came home from work one day and my son said, “Dad’s in the back of that ambulance.”
Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish was interviewed for the project. Having seen the final cut of the film, Fish says, “I have two very strong emotions seeing the film. The first is pride, and the second is shame.”
Pride, he says, because Portland invests in programs to help people in distress. But the shame he feels comes from watching people who played by the rules, suffering in the recession. Fish thinks the country is paying a price for years of “disinvestment in families.” He and other leaders will attend a fundraiser for the social service network 2-1-1 after the screening.
The film’s festival screening happens Sunday at 3 p.m. A second screening is scheduled Monday night. It will also be featured on HBO in late spring.