Saturday, March 5, 2011

A PLACE TO LIVE looks at state of GLBT elder housing in Los Angeles, back in 2008

The full title of the not-quite-new film making its DVD debut this Tuesday -- A PLACE TO LIVE: THE STORY OF TRIANGLE SQUARE will probably explain-- for those who live in Los Angeles area, at least -- the back-ground and history surrounding this educational movie, which tells how a facility was finally erected in the then-overcrowded and impossibly expensive L.A. area for the low-income gay and lesbian elderly. Even within the GLBT community (let alone the community at large), this is a not a particularly hot topic.  The aged, of any stripe or persuasion, rarely are. So it's very much to the credit of producer Cynthia Childs and director Carolyn Coal (shown below), as well as the backers of the film, that they've produced this little piece of history.

The film begins by introducing us to a number (six? eight? I lost count) of seniors, a bit of each of whose stories we learn -- just enough, in most cases, to make us a part of their lives and acquaint us with their need for this new housing. Then we learn from various state government and GLBT representatives of the difficulties of finding affordable housing in the southern california area and why this proposed complex, devoted to the elderly in the gay and lesbian community, is so important.

We see the before (above) and after (below) of the Triangle Square development, meet the architectural firm that brought it to fruition, the workers and how they went about designing something more "special" for these seniors  (because their amenities budget was relatively small, they had to rely on donations).

As you might imagine, there were many more applicants than apartments available, and so the ever-present "lottery" system was introduced (that's one our seniors, below, filling out her lottery pre-application).

We're there at the grand opening of the development, with all the appropriate rah-rahing from the powers that be and from some of seniors we've met earlier (that's one of them below, with his friend, Carrie Fisher). Others did not make the cut, and we learn how they have adjusted to being kept out of the complex.

All this is interesting enough, particularly for the GLBT community, and although the subject matter is anything but standard, the presentation unfortunately too often is. Tinkly piano music underscores far too much of the film, offering sentimentality when hard facts -- like some more information on how public money for this facility was worked into the budget, and how gay and lesbian political leaders, along with elected officials, were able to effect this -- would have served us better, since every large city in the country could probably use a facility like this.

And while the completion of the project is indeed cause for celebration, the movie's cheerleader-like handling of this almost makes A Place to Live seem like a commercial. The saddest moment in the film, for me -- short of seeing some of our seniors not win the lottery and therefore not become a part of this new housing --comes when we hear one of the women tell us that she'd "like to spend my last years with my own kind."  Unfortunately, she does not mean "human" kind.  Someday, maybe. Till then, were all just Jews or Blacks or Gays or Croats or....

A Place to Live: The Story of Triangle Square, after a number of GLBT festival appearances, comes to DVD this Tuesday, March 8, for sale but not, it seems, for rental or download.  In our current economic times, I find it difficult to imagine most movie-lovers -- whether straight, gay or lesbian -- popping for $22-plus-shipping, rather than three or four bucks to simply watch the documentary.

To learn more about Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing at Triangle Square, click here.

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