Youth homelessness is a subject that is likely to flash through your mind when it is right in front of you, but is not something on which you dwell. There are so many problems plaguing the United States at any given moment that carrying all of it with you can leave you fatigued. It might seem desirable to dismiss the subject as more of an anomaly than the epidemic that it is. Rotimi Rainwater’s emotionally wrenching documentary Lost In America is here to educate you on how far-reaching the problem truly is by getting the stories directly from those who have lived through it and are still doing so.
The film lures you in with contributions from celebrities such as Rosario Dawson, Jewel, Halle Berry, Tiffany Haddish and more. All of these individuals have their own powerful stories and viewpoints to share on homelessness, which gives the audience additional proof that this can happen to anyone. These stories are interesting, but the real crux of the film is Rainwater’s interactions with those who are still experiencing it day to day. We have Calub, a trans teen who has been driven away from an unwelcome household. Calub is interviewed under an overpass as he goes shirtless and bares his wrapped chest while sharing his story of rejection and living on the street. There is also Daniel & Snow, a young couple who have been living on the streets for a few weeks after one financially devastating hit after another led to them losing their apartment. In one of the most devastating stories of the film, we meet a young 20-something named Cecil, who has been living on the streets for years after experiencing childhood sexual abuse. The raw, unfiltered story she tells about her experiences is enough to truly shake you to your core.
Rainwater does an excellent job of highlighting that these occurrences cannot be traced back to just one thing. The one thing that is clear from all of these stories and interviews is that homelessness is rarely a choice on behalf of the young person. In a moving bid to show why this is so important to him, Rainwater shares his own account of homelessness as a younger person. He very clearly is trying to balance his responsibility as a filmmaker with his empathy for helping these kids, which adds an extra layer of emotion to the film. Lost In America might seem like a major downer, but that is not entirely true. Rainwater focuses on uncovering how many homeless youths there truly are in the US, explaining the history and political reasons that got us to this point, and providing a roadmap that could help combat the problem. It is not an easy film to watch, but it is very important to be aware of what is happening in our country and learn what you can do to help.
Lost In America comes to DVD with a pleasing 480p transfer that suits the movie well. This project was a low-budget labor of love that was never going to look glossy, but the lack of a high definition transfer actually makes the film seem more gritty and immediate. The interviews take place in a variety of locations, which provides different levels of visual quality. Static, interior shots at a shelter are a lot more pleasing visually than the more muddy, low-lit nighttime shots. Skin tones look natural and details hold up fairly well. Colors are a bit flat and black levels are subject to some crush and compression artifacting. This film is visually not a knockout, but it gets the information across that it needs to in an efficient and visceral way.
The DVD comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that does everything it needs to do well. The focus of the film is showcasing tragic stories of homelessness straight from the people who are experiencing it. Dialogue is pretty consistently clear throughout with only occasional moments where a mic did not pick up some information perfectly. Subtitles help supplement dialogue that is more difficult to hear from the original source. Surround speakers are mostly relegated to providing a complement to the score and some ambient noise while dialogue stays front and center.
There are no special features provided on this outside of trailers for other projects.
Rotimi Rainwater’s Lost In America provides a very personal account of youth homelessness. The film does not aim to preach at you, but rather educate you on a little-researched subject while providing a face to the issue in the form of powerful, real stories from those on the street. There are moments of joy and moments of pain, but the most important thing is that it is honest. Recommended
Lost In America is currently available to purchase on DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the DVD.
Disclaimer: Indican Pictures has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.