Documentary Puts Homelessness in Milwaukee on the Big Screen

Oct 5, 2015

For five years, two filmmakers followed several homeless men in Milwaukee - capturing the men's challenges, from mental illness to substance abuse, as well as their rare moments of triumph.

"The guys we talked to were the ones that would openly say 'I'm not proud of how I'm living, I'm not proud, you don't want to live like this, no one should have to live like this,'" director Faith Kohler says. "But they were the ones who felt that is was important to give their community a voice."

Kohler, a Marquette Law School graduate and former federal agent, says she built connections with the film's subjects after volunteering in shelters across Milwaukee. Producer Jessica Farrell joined Kohler as a film student when the idea was purely to gain insight into the lives of the homeless.

Now, Kohler and Farrell are showcasing their documentary, called 30 Seconds Away: Breaking the Cycle, at the Milwaukee Film Festival.

The film is creating conversation and encouraging change in how the justice system and residents address homelessness. "It's always kind of hard to keep an eye on that horizon, and know what's coming,"Farrell says. "I would definitely say that in 2009 I didn't know that in six years there would be this new hopeful solution." 

Those helpful solutions are programs like Guest House of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department's Homeless Outreach Team, a group of trained officers who collect information on the many men, women and even children who live on the streets of Milwaukee.

The film is screening once more at the Milwaukee Film Festival - October 6 at the Avalon Theater.