“He said a lot of cruel things to me that really hurt me, but it’s OK because I know he’s sorry,” Cantrelle says, pacing her words to match the lip movements of the actor on screen. Cantrelle, 23, is re-dubbing the scene after a passing car drowned out the dialogue during filming.
The original cut isn’t a complete loss, but Cantrelle wants perfection on Monday when she debuts the film to a live audience.
She and 13 other homeless or formerly homeless youth from Outside In’s Guerilla Theatre have spent three weeks producing, directing and acting in original films based on their personal experiences with issues including domestic abuse, violence, classism and physical and mental health.
Their work — which includes short films, documentaries, a music video and poetry — will debut Monday during “Outside the Frame,” a free public showing at the Gerding Theater at The Armory, 128 NW 11th Ave., with renowned director Todd Haynes (of “I’m Not There” fame) serving as emcee. A documentary chronicling the teens’ filmmaking process will also be shown.
Cantrelle’s “Flowers” culminates in a tragic end to repetitive domestic abuse. A rap video chronicling the downward spiral of drugs and violence ends with redemption. Another film depicts a day in the experience of a young homeless Portlander.
Heavy subject matter, but it’s not surprising. The youth have been through a lot.
Cantrelle dropped her surname and lost contact with her family after they shunned her transgender identity.
Mark “Ivan” Kolyvanov, 19, has been homeless for a year. He spends his days wondering where he’ll sleep at night. Sometimes it’s a shelter, other times a friend’s couch. Often it’s outdoors.
“It varies,” he says. “I go and stay in a shelter sometimes, sometimes I camp, sometimes I couch surf.”
Outside In is a local organization aimed at providing health care, support and resources to homeless youth.
Nili Yosha, director of the Guerilla Theatre, which partnered with Portland Youth Media to sponsor “Outside the Frame,” says youth who use Outside In come from tumultuous situations. If anyone stands to benefit from the healing qualities of artistic expression, it’s them, she says.
“A lot of things are said about and on behalf of homeless youth,” says Yosha, 29. “This is them saying what they think and what they need and what the problems are and what they think the solutions are. That’s what art is supposed to do — be the joker in the town square that alerts everybody.”
Yosha says the Guerilla Theatre offers an outlet for such expression. Each of the youths involved in the film project was awarded a competitive internship to complete the three-week project.
“Because artists should be paid for their work,” she says, the teens got a stipend to come to work every day. Such a common routine, but a task as simple as arranging transport to work can be a huge challenge if you’re homeless and penniless, Yosha says.
“At times, it was frustrating, and they worked through it,” she says.
They were required to show up at every shoot, every editing session, and work together even when personalities and ideas clashed. In return, the kids found a positive outlet for their ideas and passions.
“It was challenging, but I’m up for a challenge,” Kolyvanov says.
On Monday, they’ll get the payoff. They’ll see the finished films for the first time on the Gerding’s big screen, with a hotshot Hollywood director in the room. Noted cartoonist Bill Plympton, whose sister works at Outside In, has also drawn artwork for one of the films, a documentary on Type 1 diabetes.
It’s a big deal for the kids, many of whom had never touched a video camera before “Outside the Frame.” Given their limited knowledge of filmmaking, the students managed to produce work that is heartfelt, visually and mentally engaging, and often heartbreaking.
The filmmakers say they want audience members to leave the theater with fewer prejudices, a greater understanding of the issues faced by today’s youth, and a more positive attitude toward street kids. The best part of the experience, though, says Leticia Castaneda, 21, will be seeing her peers’ finished creations in larger than life size.
“Yeah, I’m a little bit stoked when I see the credits ‘Makeup and wardrobe: Leticia Castaneda,'” she says. “But I’m more excited to see everybody’s work recognized and have other people who aren’t their friends tell them this is something kind of rad.”