NJ HOMELESSNESS: A FILM REVIEW AND COMMENTARY OF “THE NEW DESTINY’S BRIDGE 2016’ by JACK BALLO PREMIERE AUGUST 17th Asbury Park. By Calvin Schwartz 8-10-16
I’ve just finished watching film maker Jack Ballo’s ‘The New Destiny’s Bridge 2016’ for the second time in as many days. I had to; it’s above and beyond being a journalist, but being more a humanist. I reckon it would’ve been just as easy to take my review of the first version a couple of years ago, dress it up a bit with some Roget’s Thesaurus substitute words and present it to you. Who’d know? Better to take that review as it was, and maybe re-issue it down this paper a spell. Because much is the same. It is Jack’s enduring commitment, devotion to the homeless people of Tent City and to humanity’s unending scourge of homelessness that is so evident in this beautifully crafted story. It’s a candle that burns beyond its oil. There is no beauty in homelessness, but in the soul of people who see it, and try to solve it.
There’s a wooden horse outside my window. I’ve just ceremoniously put on my western hat and ran outside to jump on. I’m galloping into the sunset of introspection and homelessness. We are a funny species. I’m not laughing. I think we’ve been in the Garden of Eden all this time; we just don’t know it. There have been fellow humans talking about homelessness, poverty and hunger for a little over 2000 years. It doesn’t go away it just gets worse, on a grander scale. I don’t know anymore. I never did. We need the Jack Ballos’ to keep fighting, sharing, and moving us emotionally and spiritually.
I worry about a recent study by a couple of government scientists that give the good old human species about 30 more years. They came up with some formulas taking into account food, water, climate change, energy, and the most important, social unrest. How is it the top 88 richest people in the world have their combined wealth exceed the poorest 3 ½ billion fellow humans. This creates social unrest all around the world.
Homelessness is part of the formula. Basic human rights of food, shelter and medical care from a very rich world. My story of enlightenment begins four years ago when I never understood homelessness. It was abstract, distant and the subject of a two minute NYC TV segment a week before Christmas. It was very cold and someone living in a cardboard box died from exposure. I felt bad. I do know that every human starts out life the same way.
Four years ago, my new friend Sherry Rubel took Tara-Jean Vitale and me as NJ Discover reporters to visit Tent City in Lakewood. It was another cold snowy day. We met Minister Steve and eventually Jack and many residents. Tara-Jean and I debated homelessness in the car going home that day. Tent City was 22 miles from our comfortable insulated suburban worlds. I’ve never been the same since.
I needed to feel, be involved and understand and to be more human and less suburban. I entered a brave new world of social conscience. That’s why I marvel at Jack Ballo’s work. It’s all fitting and proper that I reviewed the first film a few years ago. I love the institution of movie making and its illumination of our world with the ability to teach, educate, and bring our world closer together. Hey everybody, go see this movie and set yourself up to feel what it’s like to be homeless and be filled with despair.
Jack painstakingly took a different approach to storytelling of Tent City from the first version. He looks more into the lives, souls, hopes of the residents. They’re just like me and you; no difference except circumstances of privilege and perhaps luck. There is a theme more easily recognized in the new version; the desire of people to have basic shelter, self-respect and dignity. President Lincoln lived in a log cabin and he was fine with that. In essence, it was a tiny house and the film exposes us to the promise of tiny houses; the concept growing in practicality every day. And our friend Sherry Rubel very much involved in the state wide quest to build tiny house communities.
The movie themes carefully the importance of making people feel they are part of society with its concomitant feeling of self -esteem. Jack Ballo strives to teach us that. Inherent in Jack’s film, is the message to be promulgated; we all need to see this; to feel the pain of homelessness. One of the most moving scenes for me (Jack was brilliant in documenting this) was the lit Christmas tree at night, ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ playing gently. The scene could’ve been anywhere. A simple beautiful Christmas scene. But it was a homeless tent in obscure corner of Tent City. Riveting for me. It should be riveting for you. Homelessness hurts us all.
I liked the slow seasonal transition from the warmth of summer to the desolation and futility of cold winter. It was a passage for me. When I let my guard down and drifted into the lives of these precious people, Jack reminded us that the courts were constantly after Minister Steve and the residents. There are many scenes when cops in traditional uniforms or shirts and ties are there to arrest and act on the wishes of the town. Eventually the township and the county won out. I remember going to court with them at Ocean County Court House and hearing the judge’s decision.
Jack’s ending is powerful and destructive and I’ll leave it at that. He craftily infuses wonderful music to accelerate our emotions. I was riveted by his story telling and sensitivity. Actually I want more. I need to know about these fellow humans. One more comment that had me thinking and delving deep into the strains of my cellular honesty. The film tells the story of Lakewood, NJ, but in reality, it’s the story of any town in New Jersey or America. I’m reminded of a quote from ‘Casablanca,’ my favorite movie of all time. Humphrey Bogart is Rick, and Ilsa comes into his bar in Casablanca. He drinks almost to oblivion and says, “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
Of all the towns in New Jersey, they walk into Lakewood and set up Tent City. I was honest with myself. If Tent City appeared a mile from my house how would I feel? How would you feel? Is there any suburban town that would welcome them? I am upset with myself. I’m not perfect. Jack’s film continually makes me think and feel. It will do that to you and carpet you through many human emotions. So go see it and celebrate humanity’s hope and promise as well as the harsh realities of our existence. Jack leaves many uncovered, undraped soulful mirrors for us. Thanks Jack. I just got off my wooden horse. My hat is gone. I brushed the suburban dust off.
INFORMATION ON THE PREMIERE OF “THE NEW DESTINYS BRIDGE”
Wednesday, August 17 at 7 PM – 9 PM
House of Independents
572 Cookman Ave, Asbury Park, New Jersey 07712