Title: Living In A Skidrow Tent
Produced by: Chronicle Company
Director: Brent Gudgel
Release Date: 2016
Length: 5:00 Minutes
Price: Free To Watch Online
Alayna’s Story: Living In a Skidrow Tent is not a long documentary. On the contrary, it is extremely short: just five minutes long. Nonetheless, it took me at least half an hour to get through the whole thing, entirely because of how distressing a lot of the material was.
Third world conditions in third world countries are tragic, but there is something fundamentally insulting about the idea that such conditions not only exist in our backyards, but in a city filled with unimaginably extravagant mansions and Hollywood parties where the food alone would cost the average person a month of salary. This is perhaps what makes it so hard to watch.
Skid Row, located within Los Angelos is one of America’s most famous downtrodden neighborhoods, and has appeared in (ironically) Hollywood movies and shows for years, including one of my all time favorites Little Shop Of Horrors. But despite their apparent interest in depicting the place, Hollywood has shown little interest in actually helping the people who live there.
The subject of Skidrow Tent is as much about what remains unsaid as what the documentary actually did say. We know that, as Alayna retires to her sidewalk tent, somewhere close by, someone exactly like her is retiring to their mansion that could house 40 people. The only thing dividing them is luck and circumstance, nothing more.
The documentary itself follows a day in Alayna’s life, with some commentary by officials and aid workers about how Skid Row, one of the largest homeless communities in California if not the entire USA, is actually growing. Unlike the so-called “Mole People” of New York, those in Skid Row are not hidden away in tunnels and derelict buildings. Because of California’s weather they live in tents right on the sidewalk. We see how she manages to get food and try to live a semblance of a normal life, see her talking with aid workers, and learn that on a daily basis Alayna faces the risk of violence and rape.
In terms of visuals and music, there is not much to say. The music is sombre, as expected, and fits the general tone. The editing and choice of scenes is good, which is important because the short run time means visuals have to communicate as much as the words.
While watching Skid Row Tent is not really an “enjoyable” experience, unless you are that strange type of person who enjoys watching fatal accidents on YouTube, it was never meant to be an enjoyable experience. It was meant to be a political activism tool, to raise awareness about an issue, and I think it succeeded in that given the extremely short run time it had to get the message across.
Verdict 7/10 (Good)