In 2016 the homeless population of Los Angeles grew to 58,000 people. Disco’d is Matthew Siretta’s look at a handful of those people. Siretta gives us a very personal look at some of those who live in homeless encampments. The title comes from a slang term that means confused, disconcert, or discombobulate. An early scene has one of the homeless men speaking of those who come to take your stuff and cause confusion.
The film focuses on the day to day life of these men and women. Their concerns are survival and keeping their possessions. The possessions are a key issue because it is nearly time for the monthly sweep by the city sanitation department, when they’ll have to take what they can with them while the rest is picked up by trash trucks. Some are planning ahead in getting things ready to move, others will have to scramble when the day comes.
This is not the human interest stories from newspapers of those who find themselves homeless because of some misfortune. These are long-term homeless people, most of whom are heroin addicts. A part of their day to day that we see involves getting high. We also get no backstory on these people; we just know them as they are now.
This film is not about the causes, the diversity, or possible solutions to the homelessness crisis that L.A. (and many other cities) are experiencing. It is about these people. They are not romanticized. They are not especially attractive or easy to identify with. It is even difficult to have a full share of compassion for them.
Although there are times when we do get some connection with them. For example, when one of the women in the film is given $100 by someone, as she goes to splurge at the 99 Cent Store, she spends some of that on a small plastic Christmas tree for her tent. That faint desire for celebration in the midst of so much gloom reminds us of the humanity of these people.
Not being able to make connections with the subjects of the film makes this a difficult film to watch. But that could well be by design. These are not the sympathetic homeless people of the human interest newspaper stories. We may question if they are worthy of our attention. These are the people we intentionally look away from. We see the tents on the sidewalks and opt to take a different route. But the film closes with a title card of a quote from Mayor Eric Garcetti that reminds us: “These men, these women, these children are our neighbors.” It reminds us that Jesus defined “neighbor” with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. That parable says that all of God’s children are worthy of help. Even those we want to avoid.
Photos courtesy of SMMS, LLC