The Homestretch celebrates successful US premieres

Last week saw the back-to-back US premiere weekend of The Homestretch, with 4 different screenings in 48 hours, in 3 different states, in 4 different theaters, with AFI Docs 2014 hosting the film in Washington, D.C., and Human Rights Watch Film Festival hosting the New York premiere.

The Homestretch follows three homeless youth in Chicago over multiple years as they strive to graduate high school. These festivals allowed our team and our audience to look at the issue of youth homelessness first, as a policy issue, and second, as a human rights issue - while also getting stunning audience feedback that really brought home how ready people are to embrace this documentary.

Superb early reviews of the film came before the screenings. In the Village Voice, the film was called "a humane accomplishment," and The Washington Post called it "heart-wrenching." Calling the film "unforgettable," Big Think compared the film favorably to Hoop Dreams, stating: "The Homestretch is a story of poverty, violence, loneliness, and pain, but it is also a story of courage, perseverance, compassion, and hope that may not offer the high-profile thrills of basketball glory, but may raise public consciousness of a generation we’re losing a little more each day."

The weekend started on Capitol Hill where the film's directors Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly hosted a breakfast alongside Senator Richard & Cynthia Blumenthal and H. Dale & Elizabeth Hemmerdinger. This event brought together Senators, political staffers, and advocacy leaders, to discuss how to best serve homeless youth. The film's stars Anthony, Kasey, and Roque told their micro stories, our outreach partners National Network for Youth (NN4Y) and National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) spoke to the macro issue, and everyone came a little closer to addressing this pervasive problem.

The subsequent screenings at AFI Docs were a perfect compliment to these weighty policy talks. The Homestretch gives a face to the statistics and a voice to the silenced, and D.C. audiences were undeniably moved.

229 miles away, our New York City premiere was sold out and our Amtrak train was on schedule.

The Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center is breathtaking. The giant screen, crisp sound, and plush seats served as an interesting foil for the coarse stories it featured during the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. The setting gave the plight of homeless youth center stage, and reminded the audience of the issue's importance. New York City struggles to support it's unaccompanied homeless youth just as much as Chicago; The Homestretch shows that communities across the country need to start making changes.

As our whirlwind trip came to a close with one final screening at the IFC Center, it was clear that the film's impact is building. Individuals are shifting their perspectives, organizations are reevaluating their efforts, and audiences are empathizing with the extraordinary individuals The Homestretch features.

More great reviews followed the screenings: Fariha Roisin, writing for Shadow & Act at IndieWIRE: "The devastation of watching these kids is realizing how much they have to give... absolutely heart breaking. Their needs are so rudimentary, so entirely fundamental. Homelessness is such a silent killer. There are ideas of what homeless people are, that they perhaps deserved it, but all this movie shows is the injustices of such a circumstantial thing. The lasting legacy of this film is the three of them; battling in a terrible situation, but embodying a beautiful humanity as they try and push forward, onto the next step."

At the Center of Media and Social Impact, Pat Aufderheide wrote: "A film about that dreaded cliché, the triumph of the human spirit? I don’t think so. Their triumph, which we cherish with them, is nestled in the film’s framing of the problem as in need of a solution far beyond bootstraps, inspiration and good will alone. When you leave the theater, you leave knowing people who can succeed and have succeeded because of their enormous talent, skill, and the support of caregivers."

Anne and Kirsten also rallied on behalf of women filmmakers during an interview with Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood.

The film's next screening will be in Chicago in September. After that, we roll the film out across the country - with your help. Follow the film on Facebook and Twitter for more information and please email homestretch@kartemquin.com to talk about setting up upcoming screenings and events.