Takeover: Heroes of The New American Depression


We’re dying in the streets — that should be against the law is the no-holds-barred attitude of the homeless men and women who are taking control of their lives and taking over empty houses in Pam Yates and Peter Kinoy’s tough, effective film. Funded by Bruce Springsteen, TAKEOVER was shot simultaneously in eight U.S. cities on May 1, 1990 as homeless people risked arrest occupying properties foreclosed by the Federal government.
An official selection of the Sundance Film Festival, TAKEOVER broadcast on PBS on the P.O.V. series in 1992. Released theatrically at The Film Forum (New York City).

Film synopsis

TAKEOVER begins with striking black and white film footage of caskets-one ominously marked “unknown black male”-being transported from city streets to city graves. In one shot, the camera’s eye looks up inside a grave at the dirt pouring down from the gravedigger’s shovel. The powerful images and haunting music at the beginning of the film dramatize the plight of homeless people. The black and white images establish a new perspective on the homeless people so many Americans try not to see.

TAKEOVER takes the viewer to the streets to hear the real stories of homeless people and behind the scenes of the homeless movement. Kinoy and Yates artfully compile footage shot in several formats at a variety of locations. The film serves not only to humanize homeless people but it puts their decision to take direct action in context. After homeless people demonstrated before the national offices of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), HUD promised that 10 percent of HUD housing would be allocated for the homeless. When HUD failed to keep that promise, homeless people decided to “take over” the buildings.

Leona Smith, executive director of the National Union of the Homeless and a former homeless person herself, uses TAKEOVER to train members of other homeless organizations from Canada, Mexico, and throughout the United States. She says:

“What makes Takeover so unique is that it shows homeless people taking their own initiative to fight for social change and affordable housing. It shows homeless people organizing. It shows homeless people planning up until the very day. Before Takeover, there was nothing that showed homeless people doing for themselves. It inspires you, if you’re on the street and you see a house standing there vacant, to take the boards off the doors.”

TEXT BY TOM BOLAND, http://hpn.asu.edu/archives/Dec98/0109.html

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