The Shuswap Film Society starts its 45th season Saturday with The Public, a film written, produced, directed by and starring Emilio Estevez.
Estevez takes on serious topics that resonate in most, if not all, communities—homelessness, addiction and mental health—and delivers a meaningful and thought-provoking, yet entertaining and funny, movie.
The film is set in Cincinnati and the public library is where the homeless population increasingly turns for daytime shelter, to escape the sub-zero winter temperatures.
The library employees know most of the homeless regulars by name; head librarian Stuart Goodson (Estevez) has developed relationships with them and can address any everyday problems that arise.
But, during a brutal cold snap, things change—all the shelters are full, and the usually polite and cooperative homeless men refuse to leave the library at the end of public hours.
Knowing members of the street community have frozen to death, Stuart has empathy for their cause and makes a hard choice to risk his job by allowing them temporary refuge.
The situation is mistakenly perceived as a hostage-taking by the library administrator, the police, the public prosecutor and the media, who politicize and distort the situation.
Stuart becomes an accidental hero as he sides with the homeless and we observe how laws, policies and politicians can actually interfere with helping those most in need.
The Public is not based on a true story but definitely could be. Estevez has made a film with heart and humanity that does an excellent job of bringing attention and compassion to the plight of the homeless.
He gets admirable performances from a stellar cast including Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, Taylor Schilling and Gabrielle Union.
At its gala screening at TIFF last year, The Public got a rousing reception.
The Public shows at the Salmar Classic Cinema at 5 p.m. on Sept. 7. You can check out our full fall schedule by picking up a program or going online to shuswapfilm.net.